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Till now this book was issued in two separate 
volumes; the reader will find in this new edition both 
of them issued in one. The collection has been revised 
and brought up-to-date. Thus, the reader will find, 
collected under one cover, all the writings of Oandhiji 
on this important subject. 

September, 1947 


It is gratifying to note that the third edition of this 
volume is required by the public. I wish that I had time 
to add one or more chapters to the volume, but I cannot 
delay publication so that I might add the chapters. I 
would have done so if I could be sure of finding the 
time needed for it. 

From what, however, I have discovered from the 
letters that regularly come to me from inquirers, I would 
like to issue this definite warning : Those who believe 
in self-restraint must not become hypochondriacs. The 
letters that come to me show that many correspondents 
brood over their ill-success in the exercise of self- 
restraint. Like everything else that is good, self-restraint 
too requires an inexhaustible store of patience. There is 
absolutely no reason to despond, and there must be no 
brooding. There should be no conscious effort to drive 
away evil thoughts. That process is itself a kind of 

The best prescription perhaps is non-resistance, i. e , 
ignoring the existence of evil thoughts and a continuous 
pre-occupation with duties that lie in front of one. This 
presupposes ,1he existence of some kind of all-absorbing 
service requiring the concentration of mind, soul and 
body upon it. " Idle hands some mischief still will ever 
find to do", is never so applicable as in this case. Evil 
thoughts, much more evil deeds are impossible when 1 
we are thus pre-occupied. Strenuous labour in accordance 
with one's physical capacity is, therefore, absolutely 
necessary for those who will obey the law of self- 
restraint which is indispensable for individual as well as 
universal progress. 
Satyagraha Ashram, 

Sabarmati, M. K. GANDHI 

3rd August, 1928 


That the first edition was sold out practically within 
a week of its publication, is a matter of joy to me. The 
correspondence that the series of articles collected in 
this volume has given rise to, shows the need of such a 
publication. May those who have not made self-indul- 
gence a religion, but who are struggling to regain lost 
self-control which should under normal conditions be 
our natural state, find some help from a perusal of 
these pages. For their guidance the following instructions 
may move needful : 

\-xfT Remember if you are married that your wife is 
your friend, companion and co-worker, not an instru- 
ment^of sexual enjoyment. 

^iT Self-control is the law of your being. Therefore, 
the sexual act can be performed only when both desire 
it, and that too subject to rules which in their lucidity 
both may have agreed upon. 

3. If you are unmarried you owe it to yourself, to 
society and to your future partner to keep yourself 
pure. If you cultivate this sense of loyalty, you will find 
it as an infallible protection against all temptation. 

4. Think always of that Unseen Power which, though 
we may never see, we all feel within us as watching 
and noting every impure thought, and you will find that 
Power ever % helping you. 

T 5. Laws governing a life of self-restraint must be 
necessarily different from a life of self-indulgence. There- 
fore you will regulate your society, your reading, your 
.haunts of recreation and your food. 

You will seek the society of the good and the pure. 

YotTwill resolutely refrain from reading passion- 
breeding novels and, magazines and i*ead the works 
that sustain humanity. You will make one bookjyour 
constant companion for reference^ jnd guidance. 


You will avoid theatres and cinemas. Recreation 
is where you may not dissipate yourself but recreate 
yourself. You will, therefore, attend bhajan-mandahi 
where the word and thejiine uplift the soiu. """' 

You will eat not to satisfy your palate but your 
hunger. (X self-indulgent man lives to eat; a self- 
restrained man eats to livf) Therefore, you will abstain 
from all irritating condiments, alcohol which excites 
the nervgs, and^ narcotics which cteaden .. the sense of 
nght and vyronar You will "regulate the quantity and 
time of^yCoir meals. 

** 0** When your passions threaten to get the better 
^f you, go down on your knees and cry out to God 
for help, ftamanama is i my infallible hei^ As extraneous 
aid take a L 'j&ip-baUi f i. e., sit in a tub full of cold water 
with your legs out of it, and you will find your passions 
have immediately cooled. Sit in it for a few minutes 
unless/you are weak and there is danger of a chill. 

^TTake brisk walking exercise in the open air 
earlyfoi the morning and at night before going to bed. 

\^& 'Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man 
healthy, wealthy and wise,' is a sound proverb. 9 o'clock 
to bed and 4 o'clock to rise is a good rule. Go to bed 
on an empty stomach. Therefore, your last meal must 
not burner 6 p. m. 

^*& Remember that man is a representative of God 
to serve all that lives and thus to express God's dignity 
and love. Let service be your sole joy, and you will 
need no other enjoyment in life. 



Gandhi jt's Writings 

Prefaces, ..... IV 

1. * Towards Moral Bankruptcy ' . .3 

2 Birth Control .... 39 

3. Some Arguments Considered . . .41 

4. On the Necessity of Continence . . 49 

5. Self-Control . . . . .57 

6. Brahmacharya ... 61 

7. Truth v. Brahmacharya . . .65 

8 Purity . .... 68 

9 In Confidence . ... 70 
10 Abolish Marriage ' * 75 

11. Conservation of Vital Energy . . .78 

12. Influence of Attitudes ... 81 

13. A Moral Struggle . 85 

14. Vow of Brahmacharya ... 88 

15. ' Startling Conclusions ' . . .93 

16. Brahmacharya or Chastity ... 96 

17. Birth Control (I) . . .99 

18. Birth Control (II) .... 102 

19. Married Brahmacharya .... 104 

20. The Cause of It . . . 107 

21. For Contraceptives .... 109 

22. For Women ^Reformers . . . 114 

23. Self-Control "again . . . .118 

24. Birth Control through Self-Control . . 121 

25. What it is like . . . .123 

26. A Witness from America . . . 125 

27. * A Voice in the Wilderness ' . .126 

28. Wonderful if True . . . .128 

29. Sexual Perversion ' . . . . 130 

30. A Growing Vice ? . . . .132 

31. Duty of Reformers . . . .133 


32. For the Young .... 135 

33. Heading for Promiscuity . . 138 

34. A Youth's Difficulty . . - 141 

35. For Students . . . - .143 

36. A Moral Dilemma .... 146 

37. The Marriage Ideal . . . .148 

38. Sex Education .... 151 

39. An Unnatural Father .... 155 

40. A Renunciation . ... . 156 

41. Nothing without Grace .... 158 

42. How Non-violence Works . . 161 

43. Students' Shame . . .166 

44. The Modern Girl .... 170 

45. Obscene Advertisements . * . 172 

46. How to Stop Obscene Advertisements ? . 174 

47. Famines and Birth Bate .... 175 

48. Self -Restraint in Marriage . . . 176 

49. How 'did I Begin It ? . . 179 

50. Walls of Protection . . .181 

51. A Perplexity . . . . .184 

52. In Defence .... 186 

53. On Contraceptives . . 188 


Extracts from Mahadev Desai's Weekly Letters 

I. On the Threshold of Married Life . . 191 

II. A Birth Control Enthusiast . . .196 

III. Problem of Birth Control . . .199 

IV. Mrs. Sanger and Birth Control . . . 201 
V. Wrong Apotheosis of Women . . 211 


1. Generation and Regeneration . . .213 

2. Chastity and Sensuality . . . 229 






Kind friends continue to send me cuttings from Indian 
newspapers approvingly dealing with the question of 
birth control by the use of contraceptives. My correspon- 
dence with young men on their private conduct is 
increasing. I am able to discuss in these pages only 
an infinitesimal portion of the questions raised by my 
correspondents. American friends send me literature on 
the subject, and some are even angry with me for 
having expressed an opinion against the use of contra- 
ceptives. They deplore that as an advanced reformer 
in many ways I should be mediaeval in my views about 
birth control. I find too that the advocates of the use 
of contraceptives number among them some of the 
soberest of men and women of all lands. 

I therefore thought that there must be something 
very decisive in favour of the methods advocated, and 
felt too that I should say on the subject more than I 
have done. Whilst I was thinking of the problem and 
of the question of reading the literature on the subject, 
a book called Towards Moral Bankruptcy was placed in 
my hands for reading. It deals with this very subject 
and, as it appears to me, in a perfectly scientific manner. 
The original is in French by M. Paul Bureau and is 
entitled *D' Inhsciphne des moews which literally means 
'the indiscipline of morals 1 . The translation is published 
by Constable and Company and has an introduction by 
Dr. Mary Scharlieb, C. B. E. f M. D,, M. S. (Lond.). It 
covers 538 pages in 15 chapters. 

Having read the book I felt that, before I summarized 
the author's views, 1 must in justice to the cause read the 
standard literature in favour of the methods advocated. 


I [consequently borrowed from the' Servants of India 
Society such literature as they had on the subject. They 
have vQry kindly lent me some of the books in their 
possession. Kaka Kalelkar, who is studying the subject, 
has given me Havelock Ellis 1 volumes specially bearing 
on the subject, and a friend has sent me the special 
number of The Practitioner in which is collected some 
valuable medical opinion from well-known practitioners. 

My purpose in collecting literature on the subject 
was to test the accuracy, so far as a layman could, of 
M. Bureau's conclusions. One often finds that there are 
two sides to questions even when scientists discuss 
them and that there is much to be said for either side. 
I was anxious, therefore, to know the viewpoints of the 
advocates of contraceptives before I introduced to the 
reader M. Bureau's volume. I have come to the delibe- 
rate conclusion that, so far at least as India is concerned, 
there is no case for the use of contraceptives. Those 
who advocate their use for Indian conditions either do 
not know them or choosQ to ignore them. But if it can 
be proved that the methods advocated are harmful even 
in the West, it would be unnecessary to examine the 
special Indian conditions. 

Let us therefore see what M. Bureau has to say. His 
studies are confined to France. But France means much. 
It is considered to be one of the most advanced countries 
in the world, and if the methods have failed in France, 
they are not likely to succeed elsewhere. 

Opinions may differ as to the meaning of the word 
failure'. I must therefore define the word as it is here 
meant. The methods must be proved to have failed, if 
it can be shown that moral bonds have loosened, that 
licentiousness -has increased, and that instead of the 
check having been exercised by men and women for 
purposes of health and economic limitation of families 
only it has been used principally for feeding animal 
passions. This is the moderate position. The extreme 
moral position condemns the use of contraceptives in 
.every conceivable circumstance, it being contended that 


it is not necessary for man or woman to satisfy the 
sexual instinct except when the act is meant for race 
reproduction, even as it is not necessary for. man or 
woman to eat except for sustaining the body. There is 
also the third position. There is a class of men who 
contend that' there is no such thing as morality, or that, 
if there is, it consists not in exercising restraint but in 
indulgence of every form of animal appetite, so long as 
it does not so impair the constitution as to render it 
unfit for the very indulgence which is its object, For 
this extreme position I do not suppose M. Bureau has 
written his volume. For M. Bureau concludes his book 
by quoting Tom Mann's saying, "The future is for the 
nations who are chaste ". 

In the first part of his book M. Bureau has collected 
facts which make most dismal reading. It shows how vast 
organizations have sprung up in France which merely 
pander to man's basest tastes. Even the one claim of 
the advocates of contraceptives that abortions must 
disappear with the use of these methods cannot be 
sustained. "It is certain, " says M. Bureau, "that during 
the twentyfive years that have especially seen the 
increase in France of anti-conceptionist methods, the 
number of criminal abortions has not become less 1 '. M. 
Bureau is of opinion that abortions are on the increase. 
He puts down the figure at anything between 275,000 and 
325,000 per year. Public opinion does not look upon 
them with the horror that it did years ago. 


"In the wake of abortion, 1 ' says M. Bureau, "come 
infanticide, incest, and crimes that outrage nature. There 
is nothing special to say about the first, except that the 
crime has become more frequent in spite of -all the 
facilities offered to unmarried mothers and of the 
extension of anti-conceptionist practices and abortion. 
It no longer arouses the same reprobation among so- called 
respectable people, and juries usually return a verdict 
of 'not guilty 1 . 11 


M. Bureau devotes a full section to the growth of 
pornographic literature. He defines it as " the exploitation, 
with an erotic or obscene intention, of the resources 
vhich literature, the drama, and pictures place at men's 
disposal for their mental refreshment and repose. M And 
he adds, "In every branch of its business it has secured 
markets, the extent of which may be gauged by the 
ingenuity and excellent commercial organization of the 
directors, the enormous amount of capital, the unexampled 
perfection of the methods employed." "The impression 
experienced has been so strong and so unique that the 
whole psychological life of the individual is affected by 
it, 11 and "a sort of secondary sexual life, which exists 
wholly in the imagination, is created. 11 

M. Bureau then quotes this pathetic paragraph from 
M. Ruyssen : 

"All pornographic and sadic literature secures in 
this psychological law the most powerful enticement 
which it exerts over an innumerable number of readers, 
and the flourishing circulation of this literature shows 
beyond dispute that those who live a secondary sexual 
life through their imagination are legion, not to mention 
those in lunatic asylums especially in a period like our 
own, when the abuse of newspapers and books creates 
around all consciences what W. James calls ' a plurality 
of under-universes ', in which each can lose himself, and 
forget, along withhimself, the duties of the present hour." 

These disastrous consequences, it should never be 
forgotten, are a direct result of one single fundamental 
error, namely that sexual indulgence for its own sake is 
a human necessity, and that without it neither man nor 
woman reaches his or her full growth. Immediately a 
person becomes possessed of such an idea and begins 
to look upon what in his estimation was at one time a vice 
as a virtue, there is no end to the multiplication of 
devices that would excite animal passions and help him 
to indulge in them. 

M. Bureau then gives chapter and verse to show 
how the daily press, the magazine, the pamphlet, the 


novel, the photograph and the theatre increasingly 
pander to and provide fcfr this debasing taste. 

But the reference hitherto has been to the .decay of 
morals amongst unmarried people. M. Bureau next pro- 
ceeds to show the measure of moral indiscipline in the 
married state. He says: "Among the aristocracy, the 
middle class, and the peasants, vanity and avarice are 
responsible for a vast number of marriages. 11 " Marriage 
is entered upon also to obtain an advantageous post, 
to join two properties, especially two landed estates, to 
regularize a former connection or to legitimatize a natural 
child; to provide unfailing and devoted attentions for a 
man's rheumatics and old age, to be able to choose the 
place of his garrison at the time of conscription, " also 
11 to put an end to a life of vice of which they are be- 
ginning to be weary and to substitute another form of 
sexual life. n 

M. Bureau then cites facts and figures to show that 
these marriages, instead of reducing licentiousness, 
actually promote it. This degradation has been immensely 
helped by the so-called scientific or mechanical inven- 
tions designed to restrict the effect of the sexual act 
without interfering with the act itself. I must pass by the 
painful paragraphs regarding the increase in adultery 
and startling figures regarding judicial separations and 
divorces which during the last twenty years have more 
than doubled themselves. I can also make only a passing 
reference to the extension of unrestricted freedom for 
indulgence to the female sex on the principle of ' the 
same moral standard for the two sexes '. The perfec- 
tion of the anti-conceptional practices and the methods 
of bringing about abortion has led to the emancipation 
of either sex from all moral restraint. No wonder marri- 
age itself is laughed at. Here is a passage M. Bureau 
quotes from a popular author : " Marriage is always 
according to my judgment one of the most barbarous 
institutions ever imagined. I have no doubt that it will 
fie abolished if the human race makes any progress 
towards justice and reason. . . . But men are too gross 


and women too cowardly to demand a nobler law than 
that which rules them. " 

The results of the practices referred to by M. Bureau 
and of the theories by which the practices are justified 
are minutely examined. He exclaims : f f We are, then, being 
carried away by the movement of moral indiscipline 
towards new destinies. What are they? Is the future 
that opens before us one of progress and light, of be- 
auty and growing spirituality, or of retrogression and 
darkness, of deformity and animalism that is ever de- 
manding more ? Is the indiscipline, which has been esta- 
blished, one of those fruitful revolts against antiquated 
rules, one of those beneficent rebellions which posterity 
remembers with gratitude because they were at certain 
epochs the necessary preliminary to its progress and 
its rise, or is it not rather the old Adam which rises up 
within us against the rules whose very strictness is 
indispensable if we are to withstand the thrust of its 
bestial appeal? Are we face to face with an evil revolt 
against the discipline of safety and life ? " Then M. Bureau 
cites overwhelming testimony to show that hitherto the 
results have been disastrous in every respect. They 
threaten life itself. 


It is one thing when married people regulate, so 
far as it is humanly possible, the number of their pro- 
geny by moral restraint, and totally another when they 
do so in spite of sexual indulgence and by means adopted 
to obviate the result of such indulgence. In the one case 
the people gain in every respect. In the other there is 
nothing but harm. M. Bureau has produced figures and 
diagrams to show that the increasing use of contracep- 
tives for the purpose of giving free play to animal pas- 
sion and yet obviating the natural results of such indul- 
gence has resulted in the birth rate being much lower 
than the death rate, not in Paris only but in the whole 
of France. Out of 87 areas into which France is divided, 
in 68 the birth rate is lower than the death rate. In 


one case, i. e. Lot, deaths were 162 against 100 births. 
Next comes Tar net-Garonne with 156 deaths against 100 
births. . Even out of 19 areas where the birth rate is 
higher than the death rate, the difference is negligible 
in several cases. In ten areas alone is there an effective 
difference. The lowest death rate, i. e. 72 against 100 
births, occurs in Morbihan and Pas-de-Calais. M. Bureau 
shows that this process of depopulation, which he calls 

I voluntary death ' , has not yet been arrested. 

M. Bureau then examines 'the condition of French 
provinces in detail, and he quotes the following para- 
graph from M. Gide written in 1914 about Normandy: 

II Normandy has lost in the course of 50 years more than 
300,000 inhabitants, that is to say, a population equal to 
that of the whole department of the Orne. Every 20 
years she now loses the equivalent of a department, 
and as she includes but five, a century will be enough 
to see her fat meadows empty of Frenchmen I say 
advisedly of Frenchmen, for assuredly others will come 
to occupy them, and it would be a pity were it other- 
wise. Germans work the iron mines round Caen and 
for the first time, only yesterday, a vanguard of Chinese 
labourers landed where William the Conqueror set sail 
for England. " And M. Bureau adds by way of comment 
on the paragraph, "How many other provinces are in 
no better condition! " 

He then goes on to show that this deterioration in 
population has inevitably led to the deterioration in the 
military strength of the nation. He believes that the cessa- 
tion of emigration from France is also due to the same 
cause. He then traces to the same cause the decay of 
French colonial expansion, the decay of French com- 
merce and the French language and culture. 

M. Bureau then asks, " Are the French people who 
have rejected the ancient sexual discipline more ad- 
vanced in securing happiness, material prosperity, phy- 
sical health, and in intellectual culture? 11 He answers, 
11 With regard to the improvement in health, a few words 
will suffice. However strong our wish to answer all 


objections methodically, it is all the same very difficult to 
take seriously the assertion that sexual ' emancipation ' 
would tend to strengthen one's body and improve, one's 
health. On every side one hears of the diminished vigour 
of both young people and adults. Before the war the 
military authorities had to lower time after time the 
physical standard of the recruits, and power of endurance 
has seriously diminished throughout the whole nation. 
Doubtless it would be unjust to maintain that lack of 
moral discipline is alone responsible for this decline, 
but it has a large share in it, together with alcoholism, 
insanitary housing, etc. ; and if we look closely, we shall 
easily discover that this indiscipline and the sentiments 
which perpetuate it are the strongest allies of these 
other scourges. . . . The frightful extension of venereal 
diseases has done incalculable injury to the public health. " 

M. Bureau even disputes the theory advanced by 
Neo-Malthusians that wealth of individuals in a society 
which regulates its births increases in proportion to the 
restriction it imposes upon them, and fortifies his answer 
by comparing the favourable German birth rate and her 
increasing material prosperity with the decreasing birth 
rate of France side by side with its decreasing wealth. 
Nor has the phenomenal expansion of trade in Germany, 
M. Bureau contends, been attained at the cost of the 
workmen more than elsewhere. He quotes M. Rossignol : 
11 People died of hunger in Germany when she had but 
41 ,000,000 inhabitants: they have become richer and 
'richer since she numbered 68,000,000, " and adds, 
" These people, who are by no means ascetics, found 
it possible to place annually in the savings banks sums 
which in 1911 amounted to 22,000 million francs; while 
in- 1895 the deposits only reached 8,000 millions; an in- 
crease of 850 millions a year. fl 

The following paragraph which M. Bureau writes 
about the general culture of Germany after describing 
its technical progress will be read with much interest : 

'" Without being initiated into the depths of sociology 
one can have no doubt of it, for it is quite evident that 


such technical progress would have been impossible, 
had not workmen of a more refined type, foremen more 
highly educated, perfectly trained engineers been found. 
. . . The industrial schools are of three kinds : pro- 
fessional, numbering over 500, with 70,000 pupils; tech- 
nical, still more numerous, and some of them with over 
1,000 pupils; lastly, the colleges devoted to higher ins- 
truction with their 15,000 pupils, which confer like the 
Universities the envied title of doctor. . . . 365 com- 
mercial schools attract 31,000 pupils and in innumerable 
schools courses of agriculture give instruction to over 
90,000. What, compared with these 400,000 pupils in 
the different lines of the production of wealth, are the 
35,000 pupils of our professional courses, and why, since 
1,770,000 of our people, of whom 779,798 are below 
eighteen years of age, live by the cultivation of the soil, 
are there but 3,255 pupils in our special schools of 
agriculture? 11 M. Bureau is careful enough to note that 
all this phenomenal rise of Germany is not entirely due 
to the surplus of births over deaths, but he does contend 
with justice that given other favourable conditions a 
preponderating birth rate is an indispensable condition 
of national growth. Indeed, the proposition he has set 
forth to prove is that a growing birth rate is in no way 
inconsistent with great material prosperity and moral 
progress. We in India are not in the position of France 
so far as our birth rate is concerned. But it may be said 
that the preponderating birth rate in India, unlike as in 
Germany, is no advantage to our national growth. But 
I must not anticipate the chapter that will have to be 
set apart for a consideration of Indian conditions in the 
light of M. Bureau's facts and figures and conclusions. 

After dealing with an examination of German condi- 
tions where the birth rate preponderates over the death 
rate, M. Bureau says, "Are we not aware that France 
occupies the fourth place and that a very long way 
below the third in regard to the total sum of national 
wealth ? France has an annual revenue from her invest- 
ments of 25,000 million francs, while the Germans are 


drawing from their investments a revenue estimated at 
50,000 million francs. . . . Our national soil has 
suffered, in thirtyfive years from 1879 to 1914, a depre- 
ciation of 40,000 million francs, and is worth only 52,000, 
instead of 92,000, millions ! Whole departments of the 
country lack men to work the soil, and there are dis- 
tricts where- one sees scarcely any but old men. " He 
adds that "moral indiscipline and systematic sterility 
means the diminution of natural abilities in the commu- 
nity, and the undisputed predominance of the old men 
in social life. ... In France, there are but 17C 
children and young people to every 1,000 inhabitants, 
while in Germany there are 220, in England 210. . . 
The proportion of the old is greater than it should be, 
and the others who are prematurely aged through moral 
indiscipline and voluntary sterility share in all the senile 
fears of a debilitated race." 

The author then observes, "We know that the 
immense majority of French people are indifferent tc 
this domestic position ( slack morals ) of their rulers 
thanks to the convenient theory of the ' wall round private 
life 1 . 11 And he quotes with sorrow the following obser 
vation of M. Leopold Monod : 

"It is a fine thing to go to war in order to cast dowr 
infamous abuses, and to break the chains of those whc 
suffer from them. But how about men whose fears have 
not known how to guard their consciences from entice 
ments; men whose courage is at the mercy of a cares; 
or a fit of sulks; . . . men who, with no shame 
perhaps glorying in the exploit, repudiate the vow whicl 
in a joyous and solemn hour they made to the wife o 
their youth; men who burden their home with the tyranny 
of an exaggerated and selfish egotism how can sucl 
men be liberators? " 

The author then sums up : 

11 Thus, whichever way we turn, we always find the 
the various forms of our moral indiscipline have cause< 
serious hurt to the individual, the family, and society c 
large, and have inflicted on us suffering which is literall 


inexpressible. The licentious conduct of our young people, 
piostitution, pornography, and marriages for money, 
vanity or luxury, adultery and divorce, voluntary sterility 
and abortion, have debilitated the nation and stopped 
its increase; the individual has been unable to conserve 
his energies, and the quality of the new growth has 
diminished simultaneously with its quantity. ' Fewer births 
and more fine men ' was the watchword, which had 
something enticing about it for those who, shut up in 
their materialistic conception of individual and social life, 
thought they could assimilate the breeding of men to 
that of sheep or horses. As Auguste Comte said with 
stinging force, these pretended physicians of our social 
ills would have done better to become veterinary sur- 
geons, incapable as they always were of comprehending 
the infinite complexity of the psychology both of the 
individual and of the society. 

11 The truth is that of all the attitudes which a man 
adopts, of all the decisions at which he arrives, of all 
the habits which he contracts, there is none which exerts 
over his personal and social life an influence comparable 
to that exerted by his attitudes, his decisions, and his 
habits with regard to the appeals of the sexual appetite. 
Whether he resists and controls them, or whether he 
yields and allows himself to be controlled by them, the 
most remote regions of social life will experience the 
echo of his action, since nature has ordained that the 
most hidden and intimate action should produce infinite 

11 Thanks to this very mystery, we like to persuade 
ourselves, when we violate in any way the moral 
discipline/ that our misdeed will have no grievous 
consequence. As to ourselves, in the first place, we are 
satisfied, since our own interest or pleasure has been 
the motive of our action; as to society at large, we think 
it is so high above our modest selves that it will not 
even notice our misdeeds; and above all, we secretly hope 
that ' the others ' will have the sense to remain devout and 
virtuous. The worst of it is that this cowardly calculation 


almost succeeds while our conduct is as yet an abnormal 
and exceptional act; then, proud of our success, we 
persevere in our attitude, and when there is occasion 
we come and this is our supreme punishment to 
believe it lawful. 

11 But a day comes when the example given by this 
conduct involves other defections; each of our evil deeds 
has the result of making more difficult and more heroic 
that attachment to virtue which we have counted on in 
1 the others ', and our neighbour, tired of being duped, 
is now in a hurry to imitate us. That day the downfall 
begins, and each can estimate at once the consequences 
of his misdeeds and the extent of his responsibilities. . . . 

11 The secret act has come out of the hiding place in 
which we thought it was confined. Endowed in its own 
way with a kind of immaterial radio-activity, it has run 
through all sections; all suffer from the fault of each, 
because the influence of our actions, like the wavelets 
spreading from an eddy, makes itself felt in the most 
remote regions of the general social life 

"Moral indiscipline at once dries up the fountains 
of the race, and hastens the wear and tear of the adults 
whom it debilitates both morally and physically." 


Having dealt with the indiscipline of morals and ics 
aggiavation by the use of contraceptives and its terrible 
results the author proceeds to examine the remedies. I 
must pass over the portions that deal with legislative 
measures, their necessity and yet utter inefficiency. He 
then discusses the necessity, by a careful education of 
public opinion, of the duty of chastity for the unmarried, 
the duty of marriage for that vast mass of mankind that 
cannot for ever restrain their animal passions, the duty, 
having once married, of conjugal fidelity, and the duty 
of continence in marriage. He examines the argument 
against chastity that its "precept is against the physio- 
logical nature of man and woman and injurious to the 
happy equilibrium of their health", and that it is "an 


intolerable attack on the freedom and autonomy of the 
individual, his right to happiness and to live his life in 
his own way." 

The author contests thj^doctrine that "the organ of 
generation is like the rest" requiring satisfaction. "If it 
were," he says, "an organ like the others, how could 
we explain the absolute inhibitory power which the will 
possesses over it, or the fact that the awakening of 
sensuality, which pharisaism calls the sexual necessity, 
is the result of the innumerable excitements which our 
civilisation provides for young boys and girl? several 
years before normal adult age ? " 

I cannot resist the temptation of copying the following 
valuable medical testimony collected in the book in 
support of the proposition that self-restraint is not 
only not harmful but necessary for the promotion of the 
health and perfectly possible : 

"The sexual instinct," says Oesterlen, Professor at 
Tubingen University, "is not so blindly all-powerful that 
it cannot be controlled, and even subjugated entirely, 
by moral strength and reason, The young man, like the 
young woman, should learn to control himself until the 
proper time. He must know that robust health and 
ever-renewed vigour will be the reward of this 
voluntary sacrifice. 

"One cannot repeat too often that abstinence and 
the most absolute purity are perfectly compatible with 
the laws of physiology and morality, and that sexual 
indulgence is no more justified by physiology and 
psychology than by morality and religion." 

"The example of the best and noblest among men," 
says Sir Lionel Beale, Professor at the Royal College in 
London, "has at all times proved that the most imperious 
of instincts can be effectively resisted by a strong and 
serious will, and by sufficient care as to manner of life and 
occupation. Sexual abstinence has never yet hurt any man 
when it has been observed, not only through exterior 
restrictive causes, but as a voluntary rule of conduct. 
Virginity, in fine, is notftoo hard to observe, provided that 


it is the physical expression of a certain state of 

mind Chastity implies, not only continence, but 

also purity of sentiments, the energy which is the result 
of deep donvictions," * 

"Every kind of nervous activity, 11 says the Swiss 
psychologist Forel, who discusses sexual anomalies with 
a moderation equal to his knowledge, " is increased and 
strengthened by exercise. On the other hand, inactivity 
in a particular region reduces the effects of the exciting 
causes which correspond to it. 

"JV& causes of sexual disturbance increase the 
intensity of desire. By avoiding these provocations it 
becomes less sensitive, and the desire gradually 
diminishes. The idea is current among young people 
that, continence is something abnormal and impossible, 
and yet the many who observe it prove that chastity can 
be practised without prejudice to the health." 

11 1 know, " says Ribbing, " a number of men of 25, 30 
and older than that, who have observed perfect conti- 
nence, or who when they married had done so up to 
that tinie. Such cases are not rare; only they don't ad- 
vertise themselves. 

11 1 have received many confidences from students, 
healthy both in body and mind, who have remonstrated 
with me for not having sufficiently insisted on the ease 
with which sensual desires can be ruled. " 

11 Before marriage, absolute continence can and ought 
to be observed by young men, lf says Dr. Acton. " Chastity 
no more injures the body than the soul, 11 declares Sir 
James Paget, physician to the English Court. " Discipline 
is better than any other line of conduct. 11 

"It is a singularly false notion, 11 writes Dr. E. Perier, 
11 and one which must be fought against, since it besets 
not only the children's mind, but that of the fathers as 
well : the notion of imaginary dangers in absolute con- 
tinence. Virginity is a physical, moral, and intellectual 
safeguard to young men. 11 

" Continence, 11 says Sir Andrew Clarke, "does not 
harm, it does not hinder development, it increases energy 


and enlivens perception. Incontinence weakens self- 
control, creates habits of slackness, dulls and degrades 
the whole being, and lays it open to diseases which can 
be transmitted to several generations. To say that incon- 
tinence is necessary to the health of young men is 
not only an error, but a cruelty. It is ' at once false 
and hurtful. " 

"The evils of incontinence are well-known and un- 
disputed," writes Dr. Sur bled, " those produced by con- 
tinence are imaginary; what proves this is the fact of the 
many learned and voluminous works devoted to the 
explanation of the former, while the latter still await 
their historian. As to these latter there are but vague 
assertions, which hide themselves, for very shame, in 
mere talk, but which will not endure the daylight." 

"I have never seen," writes Dr. Montegazza in La 
Phy*wloie de rumour, "a disease produced by chastity. 
. . . All men, and especially young men, can experience 
the immediate benefits of chastity." 

Dr. Dubois, the famous professor of neuropathology 
at Berne, affirms that "there are more victims of neuras- 
thenia among those who give free rein to their sensua- 
lity than among those who know how to escape from 
the yoke of mere animalism;" and his testimony is fully 
confirmed by that of Dr. Fere, physician at the Bicetre 
Hospital, who testifies that those who are capable' of 
psychic chastity can maintain their continence without 
any fear for their health, which does not depend on the 
satisfaction of the sexual instinct. 

11 There has been unfitting and light talk," writes 
Professor Alfred Fournier, " about ' the dangers of 
continence for the young man '. I can assure you that 
if these dangers exist I know nothing about them, and 
that as a physician I am still without proof of their 
existence, though I have had every opportunity in the 
way of subjects under my professional observation. 

11 Besides this, as a physiologist I will add that 
true virility is not attained before the age of twentyone, 


or thereabouts, and the sexual necessity does not 
obtrude itself before that period, especially if unhealthy 
excitements have not aroused it prematurely. Sexual 
precocity is merely artificial, and is most often the 
result of ill-directed upbringing. 

11 In any case, be sure that danger of this kind lies 
far less in restraining than in anticipating the natural 
tendency; you know what I mean." 

Lastly, after these most authoritative testimonies, to 
which it would be easy to add many others, M. Bureau 
quotes the resolution unanimously voted at Brussels in 
1902 by the 102 members present at the Second General 
Congress of the International Conference of Sanitary and 
and Moral Prophylaxis, a Congress which assembled to- 
gether the most competent authorities on the subject 
throughout the world : " Young men must above all be 
taught that chastity and continence are not only not 
harmful, but also that these virtues are among those to be 
most earnestly recommended from the purely medical 
and hygienic standpoint." 

M. Bureau then proceeds : 

11 There was also a unanimous declaration issued by 
the professors of the Medical Faculty of Christiania Uni- 
versity, a few years ago : ' The assertion that a chaste 
life will be prejudicial to the health rests, according to 
our unanimous experience, on no foundation. We have 
no knowledge of any harm resulting from a pure and 
moral life. 1 

11 The case has therefore been heard, and sociologists 
and moralists can repeat with M. Ruyssen this elemen- 
tary and physiological truth ' that the sexual appetite 
does not need, like the requirements of aliment and 
exercise, a minimum of necessary satisfaction. It is a fact 
that man or woman can lead a chaste life without expe- 
riencing, except in the case of a few abnormal subjects, 
serious disturbance or even painful inconvenience. It has 
been said and cannot be too often .repeated, since such 
an elementary truth can be so widely disregarded that 


no disease ever comes through continence to normal 
subjects, who form the immense majority, while many 
diseases, very well known and very serious, are 
the results of incontinence. Nature has provided in tfie 
most simple and infallible way for the excess of nutrition 
which is represented by the . seminal fluid and the 
menstrual flux. 1 

11 Dr. Viry is therefore right in denying that the 
question is one of a true instinct or a real need. ' Every- 
one knows what it would cost him not to satisfy the 
need of nourishment or to suppress respiration, but no 
one quotes any pathological consequences, either acute 
or chronic, as having followed either temporary or 
absolute continence. ... In normal life we see the 
example of chaste men who are neither less virile in 
character, nor less energetic in will, nor less robust than 
others, nor less fitted to become fathers if they marry. 
... A need which can be subject to such variations, an 
instinct which accommodates itself so well to lack of 
satisfaction, is neither a need nor an instinct. ' 

"Sexual relationship is far from answering to any 
physiological need of the growing boy; quite the contrary, 
it is perfect chastity which is sternly required by the 
exigencies of his normal growth and development, and 
those who violate it cause irreparable injury to their 
health. ' The attainment of puberty is accompanied by 
great changes, a veritable disturbance of various functions, 
and a general development. The adolescent boy needs 
all his vital strength, for during this period $ere is 
often a weakening of the resistance to sicknsss: disease 
and mortality are higher than in the earlier period. . . . 
The long work of general growth, of organic evolution, 
that whole series' of physical and psychic changes^ at 
the end of which the child becomes a man, involves a 
toilsome effort of nature. At that moment, all overdriving 
is dangerous, but especially the premature exercise of 
the sexual function. 1 " 



After dealing with the physiological benefits of chastity 
M. Bureau' quotes the following passage from Professor 
Montegazza on its moral and intellectual advantages : 

11 All men, and young men in particular, can expe- 
rience the immediate benefit of chastity. The memory 
is quiet and tenacious, the brain lively and fertile, the 
will energetic, the whole character gains a strength of 
which libertines have no conception; no prism shows us 
our surroundings under such heavenly colours as that 
of chastity, which lights up with its rays the least objects 
in the universe, and transports us into the purest joys 
of an abiding happiness that knows neither shadow nor 
decline." And the author adds: "The joy, the cordial 
merriment, the sunny confidence of vigorous young men 
who have remained chaste . . . are an eloquent contrast 
to the restless obsessions and feverish excitement of 
their companions who are slaves to the demands of 
sensuality. 11 He then compares the benefits of chastity 
with the ' miserable consequences of lust and debau- 
chery.' "No disease, 11 the author states, "could ever be 
quoted as the result of continence; who is not aware of 
the frightful diseases of which moral indiscipline is the 
source? . . . The body . . . finds itself converted into 
an indescribable state of rottenness. . . . Nor can we 
forget the worse defilement of imagination, heart and 
understanding. On every side we hear complaint of the 
lowering of character, the unbridled lust of youth, the 
overflowing of selfishness. " 

So much for the so-called necessity of sexual indul- 
gence and the consequent liberty taken by the youth 
before marriage. The protagonists of the doctrine of 
such indulgence further contend that restraint of the 
sexual passion is a restraint upon ' the freedom to dispose 
of one's own body '. The author shows by elaborate 
argument that restraint on individual freedom in -the 
matter of sexual indulgence is a necessity from the 
standpoint of sociology and social psychology. 


"'In the eyes of sociologists/ 1 the author says, " social 
life is nothing but a network of multiform relations, 
nothing but an interlacing of actions and reactions, in 
the midst of which an activity, isolated and really separated 
from the rest, is. unthinkable. On whatever step^ we 
resolve, whatever action we attempt, solidarity unites 
our resolution and our action to those of our brothers; 
and not even our most secret thought or most fugitive 
wish fails of an echo so distant that the mind is for ever 
incapable of measuring the distance. The social quality 
is not, in man, an adventitious or merely accessory quality : 
it is immanent, part of his humanity itself; he is a social 
being because he is a man. There is no other field of 
activity so truly our own : physiology and morality, eco- 
nomics and politics, the intellectual and aesthetic domains, 
the religious and the social, are all conditioned by a 
universal system of mysterious bonds and undefined 
relations. The bond is so firm, the net so closely meshed 
that sometimes the sociologist stands in real trouble before 
this immensity which unfolds itself before him, across 
all time and space; he measures in one glance how great, 
under certain circumstances, is the responsibility of the 
individual, and how he risks becoming petty by liberty 
which some social circles might be tempted to grant him. 11 

"If," the author further says, " we can say that under 
certain circumstances I am not at liberty to spit in the 
street, . . . how can I claim the much more important 
right of disposing of my sexual energy as I like ? Does 
that energy by a unique privilege escape the universal 
law of solidarity? WI*> does not see, on the contrary, 
that the sovereign importance of the function only 
increases the social reaction of the individual acts ? Look 
at this young man and this girl who have just established 
that false union of which the reader knows the character; 
they are persuaded that the agreement concerns nobody 
but themselves. They shut themselves up in their .in- 
dependence, and pretend to believe that their intimate 
and secret action has -no interest for society and is 
altogether beyond its control. A childish illusion ! The 


social solidarity which unites the people of one nation, 
and, beyond the individual nations, all humanity, finds 
no difficulty in passing through all walls, even those of 
the secret chambers, and a terrible interrelation joins 
that supposed private action to the most distant series 
of actions in that social life which it helps to disorganize. 
Whether he wills it or not, every individual, wlio asserts 
his right to temporary or sterile sexual relations, who 
claims the liberty to use. the reproductive energy with 
which he is endowed merely for his own enjoyment, 
spreads in society the germs of division and disorder. 
All deformed as they are by our selfishness and our 
disloyalties, our social institutions still take for granted 
that the individual will accept with goodwill the obliga- 
tions inherent in the satisfaction of the reproductive 
appetite. It is by discounting this acceptance that society 
has built up its countless mechanisms of labour and 
property, of wages and inheritance, of taxation and 
military service, of the right of parliamentary suffrage 
and civil liberties. By his refusal to take his share the 
individual disorganizes everything at one stroke, he 
violates the social pact in its very essence, and while 
he makes the burden heavier on others' shoulder, he 
is no better than an exploiter and a parasite, a thief 
and a swindler. We are responsible in the face of society 
for our physiological energy, as for all our energies, 
and, it might be said, even more than for all the others, 
since a society unarmed and almost wholly without 
^external pressure is obliged to remit to our goodwill 
the ,care to use that energy judiciously and conformably 
to the social good." 

The author is equally strong on the psychological 
ground : " It was said long ago that liberty is in appea- 
rance an alleviation, in reality a burden. That is preci- 
sely its grandeur. Liberty binds and compels; it increases 
the sum of the efforts which each is Joound to make. 
The individual desires to be free, he is all inflamed 
with the longing to realise himself in the expansion of 
his autonomy. The programme seems simple enough, 


and yet his first experiences are enough to show him 
its painful complexity. It is in vain that unity is the 
dominating characteristic of our nature and. our moral 
life; we feel within us various and contradictory impulses; 
in each of them we are conscious of ourselves, and yet 
everything proves to us that we must choose between 
them. You say, young man, that you wish to live your 
own life, to realize yourself; but what part of yourself 
do you wish to realize, we ask with the great pedagogue, 
Foerster ? Which is the better part, that which has its 
seat in the centre of your intellectual force, or that which 
occupies the lowest, ,the sensual, part of your nature? 
If it is true that progress in the individual and in society 
consists in a growing spiritualization and in the ever 
more complete mastery of spirit over matter, the choice 
cannot be doubtful, but there must still be energy to 
act, and the undertaking is not an easy one. Perhaps 
you will reply : But I do not choose, I wish to realize 
my being in one harmonious and organized whole. Very 
well; but take care, this very resolution is a choice, for 
harmony is only established at the cost of strife. Sterb 
und Werde, die and become, said Goethe, and the words 
are but the echo of others spoken nineteen centuries 
ago by Christ, 'Amen, I say to you, unless the grain of 
wheat falling into the ground die, it remaiheth alone; 
but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.' 

11 ' We wish to be men an easy thing to say, 1 writes 
M. Gabriel Seailles, 'but the right turns into duty, stern 
duty, in which no one does not fail more or less; we 
wish to be free, we announce it with a menacing air; 
if we call liberty doing as we like, the slavery of instinct, 
we need not be so proud of it; if we are speaking of 
the true liberty, let us gird up our loins and prepare 
ourselves for the unending fight. We talk about our 
unity, our identity, our liberty, and proudly conclude 
that we are immortal sons of God. Alas ! if we only try 
to seize this Self, it escapes our grasp, it resolves itself 
into a multitude of incoherent beings which deny each 
other, it is rent by contradictory desires which in turn 


constitute itself; it is wholly (its own essential being 
excepted) the prejudice to which it submits, the objects 
which tempi it; its pretended liberty is nothing but a 
slavery which it does not feel, so does not resist. 1 

11 Says Ruyssen : 

11 'While continence is a virtue full of repose, 
incontinence opens the door to an unknown guest who 
may become formidable. The revelation of passion, 
which is troublesome at any age, may become in youth 
the signal of a radical perversion, we would say of an 
irreparable disturbance, of the balance of the will and 
the senses. The boy who has contact for the first time 
with any woman whatsoever, as a passing encounter, is 
really playing with his physical, intellectual, and moral 
life; he does not know but it will be the same tomorrow 
in the family, at work, in social life; he does not know 
how the sensual revelation will come back to haunt 
him, what servitude without hope may represent the 
too exact term of 'mastery'; and we know of more 
than one life ruined after a beginning of richest promise, 
the first disappointments of which dated from the first 
moral fall.' 

"The celebrated verses of the poet echo these 
remarks of t the philosopher : 

11 'Man's virqm soul is as a vessel deeo, 
If the first drops inpoured should tainted be, 
Across the soul all ocean's waves may sweep, ' 
Yet fail that vast abyss from stain to free. 1 

"And, not less, this advice of the great British 
physiologist, JohnG. M. Kendrick, professor of physiology 
at Glasgow University : 

"'The illicit satisfaction of nascent passion is not 
only a moral fault, it is a terrible injury to the body. 
The new need becomes a tyrant if yielded to; a guilty 
complacency will listen to it, and make it more impe- 
rious; every fresh act will forge a new link in the 
chain of habit. 

"'Many have no longer strength to break it, and 
helplessly end in physical and intellectual ruin, slaves of 


a habit contracted often through ignorance rather than 
perversity. The best safeguard consists in cultivating 
within oneself purity of thought and discipline of one's 
whole being. 1 " 

M. Bureau adds to the foregoing the following from 
Dr. Escande : 

"As to sexual desire, we assert, the intelligence and 
the will have absolute control over it. It is necessary to 
employ the term sexual desire, not need, for there is no 
question of a function, the non-accomplishment of which 
is incompatible with existence. Really it is not a need 
at all; but many men are persuaded that it is. The 
interpretation they give to the desire makes them look 
on cohabitation as absolutely necessary. Now we cannot 
look on the sexual act as resulting from senile and 
passive obedience to natural laws. We are, on the 
contrary, concerned with a voluntary act, following on a 
determination or an acquiescence, often premeditated 
and prepared for." 


After having insisted on chastity before and during 
marriage and shown by overwhelming proof that not 
only is self-restraint not impossible, not harmful, but 
perfectly possible and wholly beneficial both to the mind 
and the body, M. Bureau devotes a chapter to the value 
and possibility of perpetual continence. The following 
opening paragraph is worth reproducing : 

"In the first rank of these liberators, these heroes 
of the true sexual emancipation, it is only right to name 
the young men and women who, the better to devote 
themselves to the service of a great cause, choose to 
remain all their life in chastity, and renounce the joys 
of marriage. The reasons for their resolve vary according 
to circumstances; one feels it a duty to remain with an 
infirm father or mother; another takes the place, to 
orphaned brothers and sisters, of the departed parents; 
another desires to devote himself or herself entirely to 
the service of science or of art, of tlje poor or the sick # 


or to a work of moral education or of prayer. Similarly 
the merit of the voluntary sacrifice may be greater or 
less; some, thanks to the benefits of a wise protective 
education and the practice of a good moral hygiene, are 
almost without sensual temptations; others, more advanced 
in the path of virtue, have succeeded, it may be at the 
cost of sharp conflicts, of which they alone know the 
hardness, in mastering the beast and taming the flesh. 
On any supposition, the final resolve is the same : these 
men and women have been led to think that the best 
way for them to serve is not to marry; and they have 
entered into an engagement, it may be with themselves, 
it may be with God, to remain in the perfect chastity 
of the celibate life. However definite and undoubted may 
be the duty of marriage, as we shall see, under certain 
circumstances, all these resolutions are legitimate, 
because they are inspired by a noble and generous 
purpose. 'Painting is a jealous mistress who suffers no 
rival,' replied Michael Angelo when marriage was sug- 
gested to him; and how many after him have had a like 

I can corroborate this testimony from the experience 
of European friends of almost every description given 
by M. Bureau, friends who exercised perpetual restraint. 
It is only in India that from childhood we must hear of 
marriages. Parents have no other thought, 'no other ambi- 
tion, save that of seeing their children well married and 
provided for. The one thing brings premature decay of 
mind and body, and the other induces idleness and often 
makes of one a parasite. We exaggerate the difficulty of 
chastity and voluntary poverty and impute extraordi- 
nary merit to them, reserve them for mahatm^ and 
yo&s and rule the latter out of ordinary life, forgetting 
that real mahatmya and yoga are unthinkable in a society 
where the ordinary level is brought down to the mudbank. 
On the principle that evil like the hare travels faster 
than good which like the tortoise though steady goes slow, 
voluptuousness of the West comes to us with lightning 
peed, and with all its variegated enchantment dazzles and 


blinds us to the realities of life. Wfe are almost ashamed 
of chastity, and are in danger of looking upon self-imposed 
poverty as a crime in the face of the Western splendour that 
descends upon us from minute to minute through the 
cable and day to day through the steamers that discharge 
their cargo on our shores. But the West is not wholly 
what we see in India. Even as the South African Whites 
ill- judge us when they judge us through the Indian set- 
tlers, so shall we ill- judge the West through the human 
and the other Western cargo that delivers itself to us 
every day. There is in the West a small but inexhaustible 
reservoir of puiity and strength which those who have 
eyes of penetration may see beneath the deceptive 
surface. Throughout the European desert there are oases 
from which those who will may drink the purest water 
of life. Chastity and voluntary poverty are adopted 
without brag, without bluster, and in all humility by 
hundreds of men and women, often for no other than 
the all-sufficing cause of service of some dear one or 
of the country. We often prate about spirituality as if it 
had nothing to do with the ordinary affairs of life and 
had been reserved for anchorites lost in the Himalayan 
forests or concealed in some inaccessible Himalayan 
cave. Spirituality that has no bearing on and produces 
no effect on everyday life is ' an airy nothing '. Let 
young men and women for whose sake Young India is 
written from week to week know that it is their duty, 
if they would purify the atmosphere about them and shed 
their weakness, to be and remain chaste and know too 
that it is not so difficult as they have been taught to 

Let us further listen to M. Bureau: "In proportion 
as it ( modern sociology ) follows the evolution of our 
manners, and as methodical study digs more deeply the 
soil of social realities, the better is the value perceived 
of the help which the practice of perpetual chastity 
brings to the great work of the discipline of the senses." 
"If marriage is the normal state of life for the immense 
majority of people, it cannot be that all can, or ought 


to, marry. Even putting aside the exceptional vocations 
of which we have just spoken, there are at least three 
classes of celibates who cannot be blamed for not being 
married : the young people of both sexes who for 
professional or economic reasons think it a duty to defer 
their marriage; the people who are involuntarily 
condemned to celibacy because they cannot find a 
suitable partner; finally those who ought to abstain from 
marriage in consequence of their physiological defects 
that could be transmitted, and who are in some cases 
strictly bound to renouce all idea of it. Is it not evident, 
then, that the renunciation made by these people, doubly 
necessary both for their own happiness and the interest 
of society, will be rendered so much the less painful 
and so much the more cheerful, because they will find 
beside them others who, in full possession of their 
physical and intellectual vigour and sometimes with 
abundant means, have declared their firm resolution to 
remain celibate all their lives ? These voluntary and 
choice celibates, who have willed to consecrate 
themselves to God without reserve, to prayer and to 
the training of the souls, declare that in their eyes 
celibacy, far from being a reduced condition of life, is 
on the contrary a superior state, in which *nan asserts, 
in its plenitude, the mastery of will over instinct. 11 

11 To young people of both the sexes," says the 
author, " who are still too young to marry, perpetual 
celibacy shows that it is possible to pass one's youth 
chastely; to the married it recalls the duty which lies 
upon them to maintain exact discipline in their conjugal 
relations and never to allow a consideration of 
self-interest, however legitimate it may be in itself, to 
prevail over the higher demands of moral generosity 
and loyalty. " 

11 The vow of the voluntary celibate," says Foerster, 
"far from degrading marriage, is on the contrary 
the best support of the sanctity of the conjugal bond, 
since it represents in a concrete form man's freedom in 
the face of the pressure of his nature. It acts like a 


conscience with regard to passing whims and sensual 
assaults. Celibacy is also a protection to marriage in the 
sense that its existence prevents married people from 
looking upon themselves* in their mutual relations as mere 
slaves to obscure natural forces, and it leads them to 
take openly, in the face of nature, the position of free 
beings who are capable of mastery. Those who scoff at 
perpetual celibacy as unnatural or impossible do not know 
really what they are doing. They fail to see that the line 
of thought which makes them talk as they do must 
necessarily lead, by strict logic, to prostitution and 
polygamy. If the demand of nature is irresistible, how 
can a chaste life be required of married people ? And 
lastly, they forget the great number of marriages in 
which, it may be for several months or years, or even 
for life, one of the spouses is condemned to a real 
celibacy by the sickness or other disability of the partner. 
For this reason alone, true monogamy rises or falls with 
the esteem that is paid to celibacy." 


The chapter on perpetual continence is followed by 
chapters on the duty and indissolubility of marriage. 
Whilst the author contends that perpetual continence is 
the highest state, it is not possible for the multitude for 
whom marriage must be regarded as a duty. He shows 
that, if the function and limitations of marriage are 
rightly understood, there never can be any advocacy of 
contraceptives. It is the wrong moral training that has 
brought about the prevalent moral indiscipline. Having 
dealt with the opinion of ' advanced ' writers ridiouling 
marriage 'the author says : 

11 Happily for future generations, this opinion of 
pseudo-moralists and of writers who are often utterly 
lacking in moral sense, and equally so sometimes in the 
real literary spirit, is very far from being that of the 
true psychologists and sociologists of our time; and in 
nothing is the rupture more complete between the noisy 
world of the press, the novel and the stage, and that 


other world where thought is cultivated, and the 
mysterious elements of our psychological and social life 
are studied in detail." 

M. 'Bureau rejects the argument of free love. He 
holds with Modestin that " marriage is the union of man 
and woman, the association of all life, the communication 
of divine and human rights of law." Marriage is not a 
"mere civil contract" but a "sacrament, a moral 
obligation ". It has succeeded in " making the gorilla 
stand erect". <f It is a great mistake to imagine that 
everything is permissible to those lawfully married, and 
even supposing that husband and wife ordinarily respect 
the moral law as to transmission of life, it is untrue that 
il* is lawful to add other modes of sexual intercourse 
which please them. 'Shis prohibition is as much in their 
interest as in that of the society of which their marriage 
ought to be the maintenance and development." The 
author holds that the ever-renewed opportunities of 
deviation from strict discipline which marriage affords to 
the sexual instinct are a constant menace to pure love. 
This peril can only be exorcised by watchfulness 
to keep the satisfaction of the sexual appetite within 
the limits defined by the very ends of marriage. 
11 It is always dangerous," says St. Francis of Sales, "to 
take to violent medicines, since if one takes more than 
should be taken, or if they are not well made up, much 
harm is done; marriage has been blessed and ordained 
partly as a remedy for concupiscence, and it is 
undoubtedly a very good remedy, but all the same a 
violent one, and consequently very dangerous if not 
discreetly used." 

The author then combats the theory of individual 
liberty to contract or break the marriage bond at will or 
to live frankly a life of indulgence without its consequent 
obligation. He insists on monogamy and says : 

"It is untrue that the individual is at liberty to 
contract marriage or to remain in selfish celibacy, as he 
pleases; still less are duly married people free to agree 
together to the rupture of their union. Their freedom is 


shown when they choose each other, and each is bound 
to choose only with full knowledge, after careful thought, 
the one with whom he believes he can assume the 
responsibilities of the new life he is entering. But as 
soon as the marriage has been accomplished and 
consummated, the act performed involves, far away and 
in all directions, incalculable consequences which extend 
infinitely beyond the two persons who have brought 
them about. These consequences may be unperceived, 
in a time of anarchic individualism such as ours, by the 
spouses themselves, but their importance is certified by 
the grave sufferings which come upon the whole body 
social as soon as the stability of the home is shaken, as 
soon as the variable caprice of the sensual appetite takes 
the place of the beneficent discipline of the positive 
monogamic union. To one who is conscious of these 
indefinitely extended repercussions and these subtle 
connections, it matters little to know that, since all human 
institutions are subject to the universal law of evolution, 
that of marriage must certainly, like all the rest, undergo 
in its turn necessary transformations, since there can be 
no doubt that progress in this direction can only take 
the form of eventually drawing more closely the marriage 
bond. The attacks now made on the rule of the 
indissolubility of marriage, when divorce is asked for by 
mutual consent, will only bring into more prominent 
relief the social value of a rule against which protest is 
made, and as the years roll by, this rule, which for some 
centuries, when its social value could not yet be appreci- 
ated, was simply a prescription of religious discipline, 
will appear more and more as a principle as beneficial 
to the individual as it is salutary for society at large. 

11 The rule of indissolubility is not an arbitrary 
adornment; on the contrary, it is bound up with the most 
delicate mechanism of the individual and collective social 
life; and since people talk about evolution, they should 
ask on what condition this indefinite progress of the race, 
which all agree to desire, is possible. Writes Foerster : 
1 The deepening of the sense of responsibility, the train- 


ing of the individual towards autonomous discipline 
willingly consented to, the growth of patience and charity, 
the control of selfishness, the maintenance of the emotional 
life against the elements that make for dissolution and 
the impulse of passing caprice all these are elements 
in roan's interior life which we are entitled to consider 
the absolute and permanent conditions of all higher 
social culture, and on this account exempt from all such 
disorder as might result from a serious change in eco- 
nomic conditions. To tell the truth, economic progress 
is itself closely bound up with general social progress, 
for economic security and success depends in the long 
run on the sincerity and loyalty of our social coopera- 
tion. Every economic modification which ignores these 
fundamental conditions is self-condemned. If we wish, 
therefore, to take up the study, at once both moral and 
social, of the absolute value of the various methods of 
sexual relations, the following question is decisive : What 
method is the best adapted to the deepening and streng- 
thening of our whole social life ? Which is the most 
capable, at the different periods of life, of developing to 
the utmost the sense of responsibility, self-abnegation 
and sacrifice, of most effectively restraining undisciplined 
selfishness and capricious frivolity ? When the matter 
is viewed from this standpoint, there is not the slightest 
doubt that monogamy, because of its social and educa- 
tive value, must form part of. the permanent heritage of 
all more advanced civilization; and true progress will 
draw more closely, rather than relax, the marriage 
bond. . . . The family is the centre of all human pre- 
paration for the social life, that is to say, all prepara- 
tion for responsibility, sympathy, self-control, mutual 
tolerance, and reciprocal training. And the family only 
fills this central place because it lasts all through life 
and is indissoluble, and because, thanks to this perman- 
ence, the common family life becomes deeper, more 
stable, more adapted to men's mutual intercourse, than 
any other. It may be said that monogamic marriage is 
the conscience of all human social life. ' " 


He quotes Auguste Comte : " Our hearts are so 
changeable that society must intervene to hold in check 
the vacillation and caprices which would otherwise drag 
down human existence to be nothing but a series of 
unworthy and pointless experiences. 11 

11 A fiction, 11 writes Dr. Toulouse, " which often 
hinders the happiness of married people, is that the 
instinct of love is a tyrant and must be satisfied at any 
price. . . . Now the very characteristic quality of man, 
and the apparent end of his evolution, is an ever-grow- 
ing independence of his appetites. The child learns 
to master his coarser needs, and the adult to overcome 
his passions. This scheme of all good upbringing is not 
chimerical, nor something outside practical life. For the 
end of our nature is precisely to be subject, in great 
degree, to the personal tendencies which constitute our 
will. What one shelters behind as 'temperament 1 
is usually nothing but weakness. The man who is 
really strong knows how to use his powers at the 
right time. 1 ' 


It is now time to conclude this series of articles. It 
is not necessary to pursue M. Bureau in his examination 
of the doctrine of Malthus who startled his generation by 
his theory of overpopulation and his advocacy of birth 
control if the human species was not to be extinct. Malthus, 
however, advocated continence, whereas Neo-Malthu- 
sianism advocates not restraint but the use of chemical 
and mechanical means to avoid the consequences of 
animal indulgence. M. Bureau heartily accepts the doctrine 
of birth control by moral means, i. e., self-restraint, and, 
as we have seen, rejects and vigorously condemns the 
use of chemical or mechanical means. The author then 
examines the condition of the working classes and the 
proportion of births among them, and finally closes the 
book by examining the means of checking the practice 
of grossest immoralities under the name of individual 



freedom and even humanity. He suggests organized 
attempt to guide and regulate the public opinion and 
advocates state interference but finally relies upon 
quickening of the religious life. Moral bankruptcy 
cannot be met or arrested by ordinary methods, most 
certainly not when immorality is claimed as a virtue 
and morality condemned as a weakness, superstition or 
even immorality. For many advocates of contraceptives 
do indeed condemn continence as unnecessary and even 
harmful. In this state of things religious aid is the only 
effective check upon licensed vice. Religion here may 
not be taken in its narrow, parochial sense. True religion 
is the greatest disturbing factor in life whether individual 
or collective. A religious awakening constitutes a revolu- 
tion, a transformation, a regeneration. And nothing Bht 
some such dynamic force can positively prevent the 
moral catastrophe towards which, in M. Bureau's estima- 
tion, France seems to be moving. 

But we must here leave the author and his book. 
French conditions are not Indian conditions. Ours is a 
somewhat different problem. Contraceptives are not 
universal in India. Their use has hardly touched the 
educated classes. The use of contraceptives in India is, 
in my opinion, unwarranted by any single condition that 
can be named. Do middle class parents suffer from too 
many children ? Individual instances will not suffice to 
make out a case for excessive birth-rate among the 
middle classes. The cases in India where I have observed 
the advocacy of these methods are those of widows and 
young wives. Thus in the one case it is illegitimate birth 
that is to be avoided, not the secret intercourse. In the 
other it is again pregnancy that is to be feared, and not 
the rape, of a girl of tender age. Then there remains 
the class of diseased, weak, effeminate young men who 
would indulge in excesses with their own wives or others 1 
wives and would avoid the consequences of acts which 
they know to be sinful. The cases of men or women in 


full vigour of life desiring intercourse and yet wishing 
to avoid the burden of children are, I make bold to say, 
rare in this ocean of Indian humanity. Let them not parade 
their cases to justify and advocate a practice that in India, 
if it became general, is bound to ruin the youth of the 
country. A highly artificial education has robbed the 
nation's youth of physical and mental vigour. We are 
offspring in many cases of child marriages. Our disre- 
gard of the laws of health and sanitation has undermined 
our bodies. Our wrong and deficient dietary composed 
of corroding spices has produced a collapse of the dige- 
stive apparatus. We need, not lessons in the use of 
contraceptives and helps to our being able to satisfy 
our animal appetite, but continuous lessons to restrain 
that appetite, in many cases even to the extent of abso- 
lute continence. We need to be taught by precept and 
example that continence is perfectly possible and impe- 
ratively necessary if we are not to remain mentally and 
physically weak. We need to be told from the housetop 
that if we will not be a nation of manikins, we must 
conserve and add to the limited vital energy we are 
daily dissipating. Our young widows need to be told not 
to sin secretly but come out boldly and openly to demand 
marriage which is their right as much as that of young 
widowers. We need to cultivate public opinion that 
shall make child marriages impossible. The vacillation, 
and the disinclination to do hard and sustained work, 
the physical inability to perform strenuous labours, colla- 
pses of enterprises brilliantly begun, the want of origina- 
lity, one notices so often, are due largely to excessive 
indulgence. I hope young men do not deceive themselves 
into the belief that when there is no procreation the 
mere indulgence does not matter, does not weaken. 
Indeed the sexual act, with the unnatural safeguard aga- 
inst procreation, is likely to be far more exhausting than 
such act performed with a full sense of the responsi- 
bility attached to it. 

11 The mind is its own place, and in itself 
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." 


If we begin to believe that indulgence in animal 
passion is necessary, harmless and sinless, we shall want 
to give reins to it and shall be powerless to resist it. 
Whereas' if we educate ourselves to believe that such 
indulgence is harmful, sinful, unnecessary, and can be 
controlled, we shall discover that self-restraint is perfectly 
possible. Let us beware of the strong wine of libertinism 
that the intoxicated West sends us under the guise of 
new truth and so-called human freedom. Let us, on the 
contrary, listen to the sober voice from the West, that 
through the rich experience of its wise men at times 
percolates to us, if indeed we have outgrown the ancient 
wisdom of our forefathers. 

Charlie Andrews has sent me an informing article* 
on Generation and Regeneration written by William Loftus 
Hare and published in The Open Court (March 1926). It 
is a closely reasoned scientific essay. He shows that all 
bodies perform two functions : ' viz., internal reproduction 
for the building up of the body, and external reproduc- 
tion for the continuance of the species. ' These processes 
he names regeneration and generation respectively. 
"The regenerative process internal reproduction is 
fundamental for the individual and therefore necessary 
and primary, the generative process is due to a super- 
fluity of cells and is therefore secondary. . . . The 
law of life, then, at this level is to feed the germ cells 
firstly for regeneration and secondly for generation. In 
case of deficiency, regeneration must take the first place 
and generation be suspended. Thus we may learn 
the origin of the suspension of reproduction and follow 
it to its later phases of human continence and asceticism 
generally. Inner reproduction can never be suspended 
except at the cost of death, the normal origin of which 
is thus also discerned. 11 After describing the biological 
process of regeneration the writer states: "Among 
civilized human beings sexual intercourse is practised 
vastly more than is necessary for the production of the 

* See Appendix I. 


next generation and is carried on at the expense of 
internal reproduction, bringing disease, death and more 
in its train. " 

No one who knows anything of Hindu philosophy can 
have difficulty in following this paragraph from Mr. Hare's 
essay : 

"The process of regeneration is not and cannot be 
mechanistic in character, but like the primitive fission is 
vitalistic. That is to say, it exhibits intelligence and will. 
To suppose that life separates, differentiates and 
segregates by a process that is purely mechanistic is 
inconceivable. True, these fundamental processes are 
so far removed from our present consciousness as to 
seem to be uncontrolled by the human or animal will. 
But a moment's reflection will show, that just as the will 
of the fully developed human being directs his external 
movements and actions in accordance with the guidance 
of the intellect, this, indeed being its function, so the 
earlier processes ot the gradual organization of the body 
must, within the limits provided by environment, be 
allowed to be directed by a kind of will guided by a kind 
intelligence. This is now known to psychologists as ' the 
unconscious '. It is a part of our self, disconnected from 
our normal daily thinking, but intensely awake and alert 
in regard to its own functions so much so that it never 
for a moment subsides into sleep as the consciousness 
does. 11 

Who can measure the almost irreparable harm 
done to the unconscious and more permanent part of 
our being by the sexual act indulged in for its own 
sake ? ' The nemesis of reproduction is death. The 
sexual act is essentially katabolic (or a movement 
towards death) in the male, and in parturition of 
the offspring it is katabolic for the female.' Hence the 
writer contends: " Virility, vitality and immunity 
from disease are the normal lot of nearly or quite 
continent persons." "Withdrawal of germ cells from 
their upward regenerative course for generative or 
merely indulgent purposes deprives the organs of their 


replenishing stock of life, to their cost slowly and 
ultimately. 11 " It is these physical facts which constitute 
the basis of a personal sexual ethic, counselling 
moderation, if not restraint at any rate, explaining the 
origin of restraint. 11 The author, as can be easily 
imagined, is opposed to birth control by chemical and 
mechanical means. He says : "It removes all prudential 
motives for self-restraint, and makes it possible for 
sexual indulgence in marriage to be limited only by 
the diminution of desire or the advance of old age. 
Apart from this, however, it inevitably has an influence 
outside the marriage relation. It opens the door for 
irregular, promiscuous and unfruitful unions, which, from 
the point of view of modern industry, sociology and 
politics, are full of danger. I^cannot go into these here. 
It is sufficient to say that by contraception, inordinate 
sexual indulgence both in and out of marriage is 
facilitated, and, if I am right in my foregoing physiolo- 
gical arguments, evil must come to both individuals and 
the race." 

Let the Indian youth treasure in their hearts the 
quotation with which M. Bureau's book ends : 

"The future is for the nations who are chaste." 


It is not without the greatest hesitation and reluctance 
that I approach this subject. The question of using 
artificial methods for birth control has been referred to 
me by correspondents ever since my return to India. 
Though I have answered them personally, I have never 
hitherto dealt with the subject publicly. My attention was 
drawn to the subject, now thirtyfive years ago, when I 
was a student in England. There was then a hot contro- 
versy raging between a purist who would not countenance 
anything but natural means and a doctor who advocated 
artificial means. It was at that early time in my life that 
I became, after leanings for a brief period towards 
artificial means, a convinced opponent of them. I now 
observe that in some Hindi papers the methods are 
described in a revoltingly open manner which shocks 
one's sense of decency. I observe, too, that one writer 
does not hesitate to cite my name as among the supporters 
of artificial methods of birth control. I cannot recall a 
single occasion when I spoke or wrote in favour of such 
methods. I have seen also two distinguished names having 
been used in support. I hesitate to publish them without 
reference to their owners. 

There can be no two opinions about the necessity, of 
birth control. But the only method handed down from 
ages past is self-control or brahmacharya. It is an infallible 
sovereign remedy doing good to those who practise 
it. And medical men will earn the gratitude of mankind, 
if instead of devising artificial means of birth control 
they will find: out the means of self-control. The union is 
meant not for pleasure but for bringing forth progeny. 
And union is a crime when the Jdesire for progeny is 
absent . 

Artificial methods are like 'putting a premium upon 
vice. They make man and woman reckless. And 

*Reprmted from Young /wcfta,' March 12, 1925 


respectability that is being given to the methods must 
hasten the dissolution of the restraints that public opinion 
puts upon one. Adoption of artificial methods must result 
in imbecility and nervous prostration. The remedy will 
be found to be worse than the disease. It is wrong 
and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of 
one's acts. It is good for a person who over-eats to 
have an ache and a fast. It is bad for him to indulge 
his appetite and then escape the consequences by 
taking tonics or other medicines. It is still worse for a 
person to indulge his animal passions and escape the 
consequences of his acts. Nature is relentless and will 
have full revenge for any such violation of her laws^. 
Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints. 
All other restraints defeat the very purpose for which 
they are intended. The reasoning underlying the use 
of artificial methods is that indulgence is a necessity 
of life. Nothing can be more fallacious. Let thoss 
who are eager to see the births regulated explore 
the lawful means devised by the ancients, and try to 
find out how they can be revived. An enormous amount 
of spade work lies in front of them. Early marriages are 
a fruitful source of adding to the population. The present 
mode of life has also a great deal to do with the evil 
of unchecked procreation. If those causes are investigated 
and dealt with, society will be morally elevated. If, they 
are ignored by impatient zealots, and if artificial methods 
become the order of the day, nothing but moral degra- 
dation can be the result. 

A society that has already become enervated through 
a variety of causes will become still further enervated 
by the adoption of artificial methods. Those men therefore 
who are light-heartedly advocating artificial methods 
cannot do better than study the subject afresh, stay their 
injurious activity and popularize brahmacharya both for 
the married and the unmarried. That is the only noble 
and straight method of birth control. 


My article on birth control has, as was to be expect- 
ed, given rise to energetic correspondence in favour 
of artificial methods. I select three typical letters. There 
is a fourth letter which is largely theological. I therefore 
omit it. Here is one of the three letters : 

" I have read your article on 4 birth control ' with great in- 
terest. The subject is, at present, exercising the minds of many 
educated men. Last year, we had long and heated debates. 
They proved at least this much, that young men are acutely 
interested in this problem, that there is a great deal of prudery 
and prejudice about it, that in a free and open discussion one's 
sense of ' decency ' is rarely shocked. Your article has set me 
thinking afresh, and I appeal to you for some more light, to 
dispel many doubts that arise in my mind. 

"I agree that 'there can be no two opinions about the 
necessity of birth control '. I further agree that ' brahmachatya 
is an infallible sovereign remedy doing good to those who prac- 
tise it ' But I ask whether the problem is not one of ' birth 
control ' than of ' self -control '. If so, let us see if self-control is 
a feasible method of birth control for the average person. 

" I believe that this problem can be examined from two 
different points of view, that oi the individual and that of society 
It is the duty of each individaal to restrain his carnal passions, 
ana thus evolve his spiritual strength At all times, there are a 
few such persons, of great moral fibre, who set up this noble 
standard before themselves, and will follow no other But I 
wonder whether they have any perception of the problem of 
birth control, which we are intent on solving. A sannyasi is out 
for salvation, but not for birth control 

" But can this method solve an economic, social, and political 
question of the greatest importance to the vast majority of 
people within a reasonable period of time ? It presses for solu- 
tion on every thinking and prudent gnhastha even now. How many 
children can one feed, clothe, educate, and settle in life is a 
question which brooks no delay. Knowing human nature as you do, 
can you reasonably expect large numbers completely to abstain 
from sexual pleasure, after the need for progeny has been 
satisfied ? But I believe you would permit a rational and temp- 
erate exercise of the sexual instinct, as is recommended by our 
smntikaras. The vast majority may be asked neither to indulge the 

* Reprinted from Young India. April 2,1925 


passion nor to repress it, but only to regulate it. But even if this 
were possible, would this method control birth ? I believe that we 
shall then have better people, but not fewer people. In fact, the 
problem' of population would become more acute, as an efficient 
population grows faster than an inefficient one. The art of cattle- 
breeding does not give us fewer cattle, but more and better cattle 
"I agree that 'union is meant not for pleasure, but for 
bringing forth progeny '. But you must grant that pleasure is 
the chief, if not the only, inducement to it. It is Nature's lure 
to fulfil its purpose. How many would fulfil it, and do fulfil it, 
where pleasure is lacking ? How many go for pleasure and get 
progeny, and how many go for progeny and also find pleasure ? 
You say that ' union is a crime, when the desire for progeny is 
absent.' It beautifully suits a sannyasi like you to say so. For 
have you not also said that he who owns more than he nee as 
is a 'thief and 'robber 1 , that he who loves not others more 
loves himself less ? But why be so hard on poor and weak 
mortals ? To them, a little pleasure, without desire for progeny 
would soothe and meet natural changes in body and mind The 
fear of progeny would in several cases agitate nerves, and in 
some cases delay marriage. The desire for progeny, in normal 
cases, would cease after a few years of marriage Would union 
after that be a crime ? Do you think that a man afraid of commit- 
ting that ' crime ' would be morally superior by sitting tijht 
over the safety valve of his restless passions ? After all, why 
do you tolerate 'thieves' who hold more than they need, 
but not the 'criminals' who unite after the desire for progeny 
is satisfied ? Is it because ' thieves ' are too numerous and 
powerful to reform ? 

"Lastly, you allege that 'artificial methods are like putting 
a premium upon vice. They mase man and woman reckless ' This 
is a heavy charge, if true. I ask whether ' public opinion ' has 
ever been strong enough to restrain sexual excess. I am aware 
of drunkards being restrained by fear of such opinion. But I am 
also aware of the sayings that ' God never sends mouths but 
He sends meat also, ' and ' children are born because of God s 
will, ' as well as of the prejudice that a large progeny is a 
proof of manliness. I know cases where such opinion gives a 
licence to husbands over wives, and considers the exercise 
of the sex instinct as the main bond of maniage. Besides, is it 
certain that ' adoption of artificial methods must result in imbeci- 
lity and nervous prostration ? * There are methods, and methods, 
and I believe that science has discovered, or will soon discover, 
innocuous methods. This is not beyond the wit of man. 

" But it seems that you would not allow their use in any 

case, for 'it is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the con- 

sequences of one's acts.' This is unexceptionable, * only you assume 


that even a moderate exercise of one's appetite, without desire" 
for progeny, is immoral. Moreover 1 ask if any one is ever 
restrained by the fear of progeny, the consequences of one's 
acts. In any case, many are impelled to seek the' advice of 
quacks, reckless of their health and happiness. How many 
abortions have not "been caused while 'seeking to escape the 
consequences of one's acts ' ? But, .even if ' fear proved an 
effective restraint, the ' moral ' results would be poor indeed. 
Besides, by what system of justice should the sins of parents 
be visited upon the heads of their progeny and the imprudence 
of individuals hurt society? It is true that 'Nature is relentless, 
and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws/ 
But why assume that the us a of artificial methods is such a 
violation ? None calls the use oE artificial teeth, eyes and limbs 
as 'unnatural'. That alone is unnatural which does not secure 
our well-being. I do not believe that mankind is by nature 
vicious, and that the use of these methods will make it worse. 
There is enough of licence even now, not even India excepted 
It is as easy to prove that this new power will be properly used 
as that it may be abused. But let us recognize that man is on 
the point of winning this tremendous power over Nature, and 
that we can ignore it only at our cost. Wisdom lies in controlmg 
it, not in shunning it. Some of the noblest workers seek the 
propagation of these methods, not for indulgence, but to help 
men to self-control 

" Let us also not forget that woman and her needs have been 
ignored too long She means to* have her say in this matter, for 
she refuses to allow man to treat her body as 'tilth for offspring'. 
The strain of modern civilization is too great to permit her to 
rear a large family with all the drudgery and worry it means. 
Dr. Marie Stopes and Miss Ellen Key would never seek the 
' nervous prostration ' of woman The methods they suggest (San 
be made effective chiefly by women, and are more likely to 
evolve wise motherhood than reckless indulgence In any case 
there are circumstances when a lesser evil may avoid a greater. 
There are dangerous diseases which must be avoided even at 
the cost of ' nervous prostration '. There are natural periods of 
lactation when union is unavoidable but injurious if fruitful. 
There are women, otherwise healthy, who can bear children 
only at a serious risk to their lives 

" I neither wish nor expect you to turn into a propagandist 
of birth control You are at your best in keeping the light of 
Truth and Chastity burning in its purity and holding it before 
mortals who seek it. But a prudent parent will seek that light 
more than an imprudent one. He who realizes the need of birth 
control may easily evolve self control. The present licence,, 


thoughtlessness and ignorance are so great that even you cry 
as if in a wilderness. There is great need for more enlightened 
discussion than your apologetic and 'reluctant' article permits. 
If you cannot join in it you must at least recognize it, and if 
need be, guide it betimes, for there are breakers ahead; and 
it will serve no purpose to blink your eyes at the danger, and 
hesitate on approaching this subject.' " 

Let me clear the ground by saying that I have not 
written for sannyasis or as a sannyasi. I do not claim to 
be one in the accepted sense of the term. {My observa- 
tions are based upon unbroken personal practice with 
a slight aberration for a period of twentyfive years and 
that of those who have joined me in the experiment for 
a long enough period to warrant certain conclusions. In 
the experiment both young and old men and women are 
included; I claim a certain degree of scientific accuracy 
for the experiment. It has undoubtedly a strictly moral 
basis, but it originated in the desire for birth control. My 
own case was peculiarly for that purpose. Tremendous 
moral consequences developed as an afterthought though 
in a perfectly natural sequence.Q venture to claim that by 
judicious treatment it is possible to observe self-control 
without much difficulty. Indeed it is a claim put forth 
not merely by me but German and other Nature Cure 
practitioners. The latter teach that water treatment or 
earth compresses and a non-heating and chiefly fruita- 
rian diet soothe the nervous system and bring animal 
passions under easy subjection whilst they at the 
same time invigorate the system. The same result 
is claimed by rajayo&is for scientifically regulated 
pranayama without reference to the higher practices. 
Neither the western nor the ancient Indian treatment is 
intended for the sannyasi but essentially for the house- 
holder. If it is contended that birth control is necessary 
for the nation because of over-population, I dispute the 
proposition. It has never been proved. In my opinion, 
by a proper land system, better agriculture and a 
supplementary industry, this country is capable of sup- 
porting twice as many people as there are in it today. 
But I have joined hands with the advocates of. birth 


control in India from the standpoint of the present poli- 
tical condition of the country. 

I do suggest that men must cease to indulge their 
animal passions after the need for progeny has ceased. 
The remedy of self-control can be made popular and 
effective. It has never had a trial with the educated 
class. That class has not yet, thanks to the joint-family 
system, felt the pressure. Those that have, have not given 
a thought to the moral issues involved in the question. 
Save for stray lectures on Brahmacharya no systematic 
propaganda has been carried on for advocating self- 
control for the definite purpose of limiting progeny. On 
the contrary the superstition of a larger family being an 
auspicious thing and therefore desirable still persists. 
Religious teachers do not generally teach that restriction 
of progeny in given circumstances is as much a religi- 
ous obligation as procreation may be under certain 
other circumstances. 

I am afraid that advocates of birth control take it 
for granted that indulgence in animal passion is a neces- 
sity of life and in itself a desirable thing. The solicitude 
shown for the fair sex is most pathetic, In my opinion 
it is an insult to the fair sex to put up her case in 
support of birth control by artificial methods. As it is. 
man has sufficiently degraded her for his lust, and arti- 
ficial methods, no matter how well-meaning the advo- 
cates may be, will still .further degrade her. I know 
that there are modern women who advocat^ these me- 
thods. But I have little doubt that the vast majority of 
women will reject them as inconsistent with their dignity. 
If man means well by her, let him exercise control over 
himself. It is not she who tempts. In reality man being 
the aggressor is the real culprit and the tempter. 

I urge the advocates of artificial methods to consider 
the consequences. Any large use of the methods is 
likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond 
and in free love. If a man may indulge in animal passion 
for the sake of it, what is. he to do whilst he is, say, 
away from his home for any length of time, or when he 


is engaged as a soldier in a protracted war, or when 
he is widowed, or when his wife is too ill to permit him 
the indulgence without injury to her health notwithstand- 
ing the use of artificial method ? 
But says another correspondent : 

11 With respect to your article on birth control in a recent 
issue, may I respectfully point out that you start by begging 
the whole question when you assert that artificial methods are 
injurious ? In the Contraceptive Section of the last International 
Birth Control Conference ( London, 1 922 ) attended by members 
of the medical profession only, the following resolution was 
passed with 3 dissentients out of 1 64 present : ' That this meeting 
of the medical members of the fifth International Birth Control 
Conference wishes to point out that birth control by hygienic 
contraceptive devices is absolutely distinct from abortion in its 
physiological, legal and moral aspects. It further records its 
opinion, that there is no evidence that the best contraceptive methods are 
injurious to health or conducive to sterility ' 

" Now it seems to me that the opinion of such a large body 
of medical men and women including some of the most eminent 
names in the profession can hardly be set aside with a stroke 
of the pen. You say :' Adoption of artificial method must lead 
to imbecility and nervous prostration. 1 Why ' must ' ? I venture 
to submit that modern scientific methods do not lead to anything 
of the kind, though the use of harmful methods through ignor- 
ance may. This is only one more argument why proper methods 
should be taught to all who are likely to need them, i e , to all 
adults capable of reproduction. You blame these methods tor 
being artificial, and still want medical men to find out ' means 
of self-control '. I do not quite understand what you mean, but 
as you refer to medical men, would not any ' means of self- 
control ' devised by them be equally artificial ? You say : ' Union 
is meant not for pleasure, but for bringing forth progeny'. 
Meant by whom ? By God ? In that case, what did he create the 
sexual instinct for ? You further say : Nature is relentless and 
will Jaave full revenge for any such violation of her laws. 1 But 
nature at any rate is not a person as God is supposed to be, 
and does not issue orders to anybody. It is not possible to 
violate Nature's laws. The consequences of actions are inevitable 
in Nature. Good and bad are words that we apply to them The 
people who use artificial methods do take the consequences of 
their acts like those who don't. Your argument, therefore, does 
not mean anything unless you can prove that artificial methods 
are injurious. I assert from observation and experiment that 
they are not, provided proper methods are used. Actions must 


be judged moral or immoral according to their results and not 
by a ^non assumptions as to their morality. 

11 The method you propose was also advised by Malthus, 
but is absolutely impracticable except for a few selected indivi- 
duals like you. What is the use of advocating methods which 
cannot be practised ? The benefits of Brahmacharaya have been 
greatly exaggerated. Modern medical authorities ( I mean those 
who have no religious prejudices ) think that it is positively 
harmful beyond the age of 22 or so. It is religious prejudice which 
makes you think that sexual union is a sin except for procreation 
As nobody can guarantee the result beforehand, you condemn 
everybody either to complete abstinence or to take the chance of 
sinning. Physiology does not teach this, and it is now too late in 
the day to ask people to ignore science in favour of dogma " 

This writer has taken up an uncompromising 
attitude. I hope I have given enough illustrations 
to show that self-restraint and not indulgence must be 
regarded as the law of life, if we are to accept and retain 
the sanctity of the marriage tie. I have not begged the 
question, for I do contend that artificial methods, however 
proper they may be, are harmful. They are harmful not 
perhaps in themselves but because they increase the 
appetite which grows with every feed. Tha mind that 
is so tuned as to regard indulgence not only lawful but 
even desirable will simply feed itself on the indulgence, 
and will at last become so weak as to lose all strength 
of will. I do maintain that every act of indulgence means 
loss of precious vitality so needful to keep a man or 
woman strong in body, mind and soul. Though I have 
now mentioned the soul, I have purposely eliminated it 
from the discussion which is intended merely to combat 
the arguments advanced by my correspondents who seem 
to disregard its existence. The tuition that is needed for 
much married and enervated India is not that of 
indulgence with artificial means but complete restraint, 
if only for the sake of regaining lost vitality. Let the 
immoral medicines whose advertisements disfigure our 
press be a warning to the advocates of birth control. 
It is not prudery or false modesty which restrains me 
from discussing the subject. The restraining force is the 
certain knowledge that the devitalized and enervated 


youth of the country fall an easy prey to the specious 
arguments advanced in favour of indulgence. 

It is perhaps now hardly necessary for me to combat 
the medical certificate produced by the second corres- 
pondent. It is wholly irrelevant to my case. I neither 
affirm nor deny that proper artificial methods injure the 
organs or produce sterility. No array, however brilliant, 
of medical men can disprove the ruin which I have 
witnessed of hundreds of youths who have indulged their 
passions even though it may be with their own wives. 

The analogy drawn by the first writer from false 
teeth seems to me to be inapplicable. False teeth are 
indeed artificial and unnatural, but they may serve a 
necessary purpose; whereas artificial methods are like 
antidotes taken by a man who wants to eat not for satis- 
fying hunger but for pleasing the palate. Eating for the 
sake of pleasure is a sin like animal indulgence for the 
sake of it. 

The last letter is interesting for the information 
it gives: 

11 The question is now vexing the Governments of the world. 
I refer to your article on birth control '. You doubtless know the 
antipathy o( the American Government towards its propagation. 
You have no doubt also heard about the free sanction given 
to it by an Eastern Power I mean the Empire of Japan. The 
on:* rules out birth control altogether, whether as a result of 
artificial means or natural ones, for reasons best known to every 
one. The other sponsors it for reasons also universally known. In 
my opinion, there is nothing to admire in the action of the first. Is 
there much, however, to despise in the step of the second ? 
Don't you think that the Japanese Government should be given 
credit at least for facing facts ? They must stop procreation, they 
must also take human nature at its present worth. Is not birth control, 
as at present understood m the West, the only way out for them ? 
You will say 'An emphatic No 1 . But. may I ask if the course you 
suggest is practicable ? It may be very ideal, but is it practicable ? Can 
humanity be expected to forego sexual pleasure to any very 
appreciable degree ? It may be easy to find a glorious few who 
practise self-control or Brahmacharya. Can this method be how- 
ever depended upon for a mass movement in this direction ? 
And nothing less than a mass movement is necessary in India 
to meet the situation." 


I must confess my ignorance of the facts about 
America and Japan. Why Japan is advocating birth control 
I do not know. If the writer's facts are correct and if 
birth control by artificial methods is at all general in 
Japan, I make bold to say that this fine nation is rushing 
headlong to its moral ruin. 

I maybe wholly wrong. My conclusions may be based 
on false data. But the advocates of artificial methods have 
need to be patient. They have no data at all except the 
modern examples. Surely it is too early to predict any- 
thing with any degree of certainty of a system of control 
which on the face of it seems to be repugnant to the 
moral sense of mankind. It is easy enough to trifle 
with youthful nature. It will be difficult to undo the evil 
effects of such trifling. 


I would request those who have carefully read 
through the book so far to peruse this chapter with even 
greater care, and ponder well over its subject matter. 
There are still several more chapters to be written, and 
they will, of course, be found useful in their own way. 
But no other chapter is nearly as important as this. As 
I have already said, there is not a single matter men- 
tioned in this book which is not based on my personal 
experience, or which I do not believe to be strictly true. 

Many are the keys to health, and they are all quite 
essential; but one thing needful, above all others, is 
Brahmacharya. Pure ajir, pure water, and wholesome food 
certainly contribute to health. But how can we be healthy if 
we expend all the health that we acquire ? How can we help 
being paupers if we spend all the money that we earn ? 
There can be no doubt that men and women can never be 
virile or strong unless they observe true Brahmacharya. 

* Tiarislation of a chapter in the author's Gujarat, book oa health 
(Part I, chapter IX). 


What, then, is Brahmacharya ? It means that men and 
women should refrain from carnal knowledge of each 
other. That is to say, they should not touch each other 
with a carnal thought, they should not think of it even 
in their dreams. Their mutual glances should be free 
from all suggestion of carnality. The hidden strength that 
God has given us should be conserved by rigid self-dis- 
cipline, and transmitted into energy and power, not 
merely of body, but also of mind and soul. 

But what is the spectacle that we actually see around 
us ? Men and women, old and young, without exception, 
are caught in the meshes of sensuality. Blinded for the 
most part by lust, they lose all sense of right and wrong. 
I have myself seen even boys and girls behaving as if 
they were mad under its fatal influence. I too have 
behaved likewise under similar influences, and it could 
not well be otherwise. For the sake of a momentary 
pleasure, we sacrifice in an instant all the stock of vital 
energy that we have laboriously accumulated. The infa- 
tuation over, we find ourselves in a miserable condition. 
The next morning we feel hopelessly weak and tired, 
and the mind refuses to do its work. Then in order to 
remedy the mischief, we consume large quantities of 
milk, bhasmas, yakutis and what not. We take all sorts of 
'nervine tonics 1 and place ourselves at the doctor's 
mercy for repairing the waste, and for recovering 
the capacity for enjoyment. So the days pass and years, 
until at length old age comes upon us, and finds us 
utterly emasculated in body and in mind. 

But the law of Natiire is just the reverse of this. The 
older we grow, the keener should our intellect be; the 
longer we live, the greater should be our capacity to 
communicate the benefit of our accumulated experience 
to our fellow-men. And such is indeed the case with those 
who have been true Brahmacharis. They know no fear 
of death, and they do not forget God even in thte hour 
of death; nor do they indulge in vain desires. They die 
with a smile on their lips, and boldly face the day of 
judgment. They are true men and women; and of them 


alone can it be said that they have conserved their health. 

We hardly realize the fact that incontinence is the 
root cause of most of the vanity, anger, fear, and jealousy 
in the world. If our mind is not under our control, if we 
behave once or oftener every day more foolishly than 
even little children, what sins may we not commit con- 
sciously or unconsciously ? How can we pause to think 
of the consequences of our actions, however vile or 
sinful they may be ? 

But you may ask, ' Who has ever seen a true Brahma- 
chart in this sense ? If all men should turn Brahmacharis, 
would not humanity be extinct and the whole world go 
to rack and ruin ? ' We will leave aside the religious 
aspect of this question and discuss it simply from the 
secular point of view. To my mind, these questions only 
betray our timidity and worse. We have not the strength 
of will to observe Brahmacharya, and therefore set 
about finding pretexts for evading our duty. The race 
of true Brahmachans is by no means extinct; but if they 
were commonly to be met with, of what value would 
Brahmacharya be ? Thousands of hardy labourers have 
to go and dig deep into the bowels of the earth in 
search of diamonds, and at length they get perhaps 
merely a handful of them out of heaps and heaps of rock. 
How much greater, then, should be the labour involved 
in the discovery of the infinitely more precious diamond 

of a Brahmachan ? If the observance of Brahmacharya 

should mean the end of the world, that is none of our 
business. Are we God that we should be so anxious 
about its future? He who created it will surely see to 
its preservation. We need not trouble to enquire whether 
other people practise Brahmacharya or not. When we 
enter a trade or profession, do we ever pause to 
consider what the fate of the world would be if all men 
were to do likewise? The true Brahmachan will, in the 
long run, discover for himself answers to such questions. 
But how can men engrossed in the cares of the 
material world put these ideas into practice ? What 
about those who are married? What shall they do 


who have children ? And what shall be done by those 
people who cannot control themselves ? We have already 
seen what is the highest state for us to attain. We should 
keep this ideal constantly before us, and try to approach 
it to the utmost of our capacity. When little children are 
taught to write the letters of the alphabet, we show 
them the perfect shapes of the letters, and they try to 
reproduce them as best they can. In the same way, if 
we steadily work up to the ideal of Brahmachary i we 
may ultimately succeed in realizing it. What if we have 
married already ? The law of Nature is that Brahmz- 
charya may be broken only when the husband and wife 
feel a desire for progeny. Those, who, remembering 
this law, violate Brahmacliarya once in four or fiye years, 
will not become slaves to lust, nor lose much of their 
stock of vital energy. But, alas ! how rare are those men 
and women who yield to the sexual craving merely for 
the sake of offspring ! The vast majority turn to sexual 
enjoyment merely to satisfy their carnal passion, with 
the result that children are born to them quite against 
their will. In the madness of sexual passion, they give 
no thought to the consequences of their acts. In this 
respect, men are even more to blame than women. The 
man is blinded so much by his lust that he never cares 
to remember that his wife is weak and unable to bear 
or rear up a child. In the West, indeed, people have 
transgressed all bounds. They indulge in sexual 
pleasures, and devise measures in order to evade the 
responsibilities of parenthood. Many books have been 
written on this subject, and a regular trade is being 
carried on in contraceptives. We are as yet free from 
this sin, but we do not shrink from imposing the heavy 
burden of maternity on our women, and we are not 
concerned even to find that our children are weak, 
impotent and imbecile. Every time we get a child, we 
offer thanksgiving prayers to God and so seek to hide 
from ourselves the wickedness of our acts. Should we 
not rather deem it a sign of the wrath of God to have 
children who are feeble, sensual, crippled and timid ? 


Is it a matter for joy that mere boys and girls should 
have children ? Is it not rather a curse ? We all know 
that the premature fruit of a too young plant weakens 
the parent, and so we try all means of delaying the 
appearance of fruit. But we sing hymns of praise and 
thanksgiving to God when a child is born of a boy father 
and a girl mother ! Could anything be more dreadful ? Do 
we think that the world is going to be saved by the 
countless swarms of such impotent children endlessly 
multiplying in India or elsewhere ? Verily, we are, in 
this respect, far worse than even the lower animals ; for 
in their case tfce male and the female are brought 
together solely with the object of breeding from them. 
Man and woman should regard it a sacred duty to keep 
apart from the moment of conception up to the time 
when the child is weaned. But we go on with our fatal 
merry-making blissfully forgetful of that sacred obli- 
gation. This almost incurable disease enfeebles our 
mind and leads us to an early grave, after making us 
drag a miserable existence for a short while. Married 
people should understand the true function of marriage, 
and should not violate Brahmacharya except with a view 
to progeny. 

But this is so difficult under our present conditions 
of life. Our diet, our ways of life, our common talk, and 
our environments are all equally calculated to rouse 
animal passions; and sensuality is like a poison eating 
into our vitals. Some people may doubt the possibility 
of our being able to free ourselves from this bondage. 
This book is written not for those who go about with 
such doubting of heart, but only for those who are really 
in earnest, and who have the courage to take active 
steps for self-improvement. Those who are quite content 
with their present abject condition will find this tedious 
even to read; but I hope it will be of some service to 
those who have realized and are disgusted with their 
own miserable plight. 

From all that has been said, it follows that those 
who are still unmarried should try to remain so; but if 


they cannot help marrying, they should defer it as long 
as possible. Young men, for instance, should take a vow 
to remain unmarried till the age of twentyfive or thirty. 
We cannot consider here all the advantages other than 
physical which 4hey will reap and which are as it were 
added unto the rest. 

My request to those parents who read this chapter 
is that they should not tie a mill-stone round the necks 
of their children by marrying them young. They should 
look to the welfare of the rising generation, and not 
merely seek to pamper their own vanity. They should 
cast aside all silly notions of family prjfle or respecta- 
bility, and cease to indulge in such heartless practices. 
Let them rather, if they are true well-wishers of their 
children, look to their physical, mental and moral 
improvement. What greater disservice can they do to 
their progeny than compel them to enter upon married 
life, with all its tremendous responsibilities and cares, 
while they are mere children ? 

Then again the true laws of health demand that the 
man who loses his wife, as well as the woman that loses 
her husband, should remain single ever after. There 
is a difference of opinion among medical men an to 
whether young men and women need ever let their 
vital energy escape, some answering the question 
in the affirmative, others in the negative. But while 
doctors thus disagree we must not give way to over- 
indulgence from an idea that we are supported by 
medical authority. I can affirm, without the slightest 
hesitation, from my own experience as well as that of 
others, that sexual enjoyment is not only not necessary 
for, but is positively injurious to health. All the strength 
of body and mind that has taken long to acquire is lost 
all at once by a single dissipation of the vital energy. 
It takes a long time to regain this lost vitality, and 
even then there is no saying that it can be thoroughly 
recovered. A broken mirror may be mended and 
made to do its work, but it can never be anything but 
a broken mirror. 


As has already been pointed out, the preservation 
of our vitality is impossible without pure air, pure water, 
pure and wholesome food, as well as pure .thoughts. 
So vital indeed is the relation between health and 
morals that we can never be perfectly healthy unless we 
lead a clean life. The earnest man, who, forgetting the 
errors of the past, begins to live a life of purity, will 
be able to reap the fruit of it straightaway. Those who 
practise true Brahmacharya even for a short period will 
see how their body and mind improve steadily in strength 
and power, and they will not at any cost be willing to 
part with this treasure. I have myself been guilty of 
lapses even after having fully understood the value of 
Brahmacharya, and have of course paid dearly for it. I 
am filled with shame and remorse when I think of the 
terrible contrast between my condition before and after 
these lapses. But from the errors of the past I have now 
learnt to preserve this treasure intact, and I fully hope, 
with God's ^grace, to continue to preserve it in the 
future; for I have, in my own person, experienced the 
inestimable benefits of Brahmacharya. I was married 
early, and had become the father of children as a mere 
youth. When, at length, I awoke to the reality of my 
situation, I found that I was steeped in ignorance about 
the fundamental .laws of our being. I shall consider 
myself amply rewarded for writing this chapter if at 
least a single reader takes a warning from my failings 
and experiences, and profits thereby. Many people 
have told me and I also believe it that I am full of 
energy and enthusiasm, and that I am by no means 
weak in mind; some even accuse me of strength border- 
ing on obstinacy. Nevertheless there is still bodily and 
mental ill health as a legacy of the past. And yet, 
when compared with my friends, I may call myself 
healthy and strong. If even after twenty years of sensual 
enjoyment, I have been able to reach this state, how 
much better off should I have been if I had kept myself 
pure during those twenty years as well ? It is my 
full conviction, that if only I had lived a life of unbroken 


Brahmacharya all through, my energy and enthusiasm 
would have been a thousandfold greater and I should 
have been able to devote them all to the furtherance of my 
country's cause as my own. If an imperfect Brahmachan 
like myself can reap such benefit, how much more wonder- 
ful must be the gain in power, physical, mental, as well 
as moral, that unbroken Brahmacharya can bring to us ! 

When SO Strict is the law of Brahmacharya What 
shall we say of those guilty of the unpardonable sin of 
illegitimate sexual enjoyment? The evil arising from 
adultery and prostitution is a vital question of religion 
and morality and cannot be fully dealt with in a treatise 
on health. Here we are only concerned to point out how 
thousands who are guilty of these sins are afflicted by 
venereal diseases. God is merciful in this that the 
punishment swiftly overtakes sinners. Their short span 
of life is spent in abject bondage to quacks in a futile 
quest after a remedy for their ills. If adultery and prosti- 
tution disappeared, at least half the present number 
of doctors would find their occupation gone. So inex- 
tricably indeed has venereal disease caught mankind in 
its clutches that thoughtful medical men have been 
forced to admit, that so long as adultery and prostitution 
continue, there is no hope for the human race, all the 
discoveries of curative medicine notwithstanding. The 
medicines for these diseases are so poisonous that 
although they may appear to have done some good for 
the time being, they give rise to other and still more 
terrible diseases which are transmitted from generation 
to generation. 

In concluding this chapter which has grown longer 
than I expected, let me briefly point out how married 
people can observe Brahmacharya. It is not enough to 
observe the laws of health as regards air, water and 
food. The husband should avoid privacy with his wife. 
Little reflection is needed to show that the only possible 
motive for privacy between husband and wife is the 
desire for sexual enjoyment. They should occupy sepa- 
rate rooms at night, and be constantly engaged in good 


work during the day. They should read such books as 
fill them with noble thoughts and meditate over the 
lives of great men, and live in the constant realization 
of the fact that sensual enjoyment is the root of much 
misery. Whenever they feel a craving for sexual indul- 
gence, they should bathe in cold water, so that the heat 
of passion may be cooled down, and be refined into 
the energy of virtuous activity. This is a difficult thing 
to do, but we have been born to wrestle with difficul- 
ties and conquer them; and he who has not the will to do 
so can never enjoy the supreme blessing of true health. 


I have been asked to say a few words about 
Brahmackarya. There are some subjects which I occa- 
sionally discuss in the pages of N tvaiwn* but which I 
rarely deal with in my speeches. Brahmacharya is one 
of these. I hardly ever speak about it, as ^ I know that 
it cannot be explained by words and is a 'very difficult 
subject. You wish me to speak about Brahmacharya in 
the general restricted acceptance of the term, not about 
Brahmacharya with the wider significance of control of 
all the senses. Even the observance of Brahmacharya* 
as ordinarily understood is described in the Shastras 
as a hard task. This is true in the main, but I may be 
permitted to make a few observations which point the 
other way. Brahmacharya appears to be difficult because 
we do not control the other senses. Take for example 
the organ of taste which leads the rest. Brahmacharya 
will come easy to anyone who controls his palate. Zoolo- 
gists tell us that Brahmacharya is observed by the 
lower animals, as for instance cattle, to a greater 
extent than by human beings, and this is a fact. The 
reason is that cattle have perfect control over the palate, 

* Translation by V. G. Desai of a Gujarati speech before the 
Seva Samaj, Bhadran, reported in Navajivan, 26th February, 1925. 


not by will but by instinct, They subsist on mere fodder, 
and of this too, they take a quantity just sufficient for 
nutrition. They eat to live, do not live to eat, while our 
case is just the reverse. The mother pampers her child 
with all kinds of delicacies. She believes that she can 
evince her love only by feeding the child to the utmost. 
By doing this she does not enhance the child's enjoy- 
ment of his food, but on the other hand makes every- 
thing insipid and disgusting for him. The taste depends 
upon hunger. Even sweets will not be as tasteful to one 
who is not hungry as a slice of dry bread is to another 
who is really so. We prepare food in various ways 
with a variety of spices in order to be able to load the 
stomach, and wonder when we find Brahmacharyx 
difficult to observe. 

We misuse and corrupt the eyes which God has 
given us and do not direct them to the right things. 
Why should not the mother learn Gayatn and teach it 
to the child? She need not trouble with the inner and 
deeper meaning of the mantra. It is enough for her to 
understand and explain to the child that it inculcates 
reverence for the sun. This is but a rough interpretation 
of the mantra which I am placing before you. How shall 
we revere the sun? By looking up to the sun and 
performing an ablution as it were of the eyes. The 
author of the Gayatn was a Rishi> a seer. He taught us 
that nowhere else can we see such a beautiful drama 
as is daily staged before our eyes at the time of sunrise. 
There is no stage-manager greater than God or more 
sublime, and there is no more magnificent stage than 
the sky. But where is the mother who washes her child's 
eyes and then asks him to have a look at the sky ? 
Mothers in our country are unfortunately concerned 
with quite other things. The boy may perhaps turn out 
to be a big official, thanks to his education at school, 
but we are apt to ignore the very large part which the 
Home atmosphere plays in his education. Parents 
wrap their children up in heavy clothing and smother 
them while they fondly imagine that they are adding to 


their beauty. Clothes are meant just to cover the body, 
protect it against heat and cold, not to beautify it. If 
a child is trembling with cold, we must send him to the 
fireside to warm himself or out into the street for a 
run, or into the field for work. It is only thus that we 
can help him to build a splendid constitution. By 
keeping the child confined in the house we impart 
a false warmth to his body. By pampering his body we 
only succeed in destroying it. 

So much for the clothes. Then again, the light 
conversation carried on in the house creates a very 
harmful impression on the child's mind. Elders talk of 
getting him married. The things which he sees around 
him also tend to corrupt him. The wonder is that we 
have not sunk to the lowest depths of barbarism. 
Restraint is observed in spite of conditions which render 
it well-nigh impossible. A gracious Providence has so 
arranged things that man is saved in spite of himself. If 
we remove all these obstacles in the way of Brahmazharya, 
it not only becomes possible but also easy to observe. 

We are thus weak and yet we have to compete 
with a world of men physically stronger than ourselves. 
There are two ways of doing this : the one godly, 
and the other satanic. The satanic way is to adopt all 
measures right or wrong for developing the body, 
such as beef-eating etc. A friend of my childhood used 
to say that we must take meat, and that otherwise we 
could not develop our physique so as to meet the 
English on equal terms. Beef-eating became the vogue 
in Japan when the time came for her to face other 
nations. We must follow in her wake if we wish to 
build our bodies in the satanic way. 

But if we build up our bodies in the godly way, 
the only means at our disposal is Brahmacharya. I pity 
myself when people call me a niishthika Brahmachari. 
How could such description apply to one who, like me, 
is married and has children ? A naishthika Brahmichari 
would never suffer from fever, headache, cough or 
appendicitis, as I have suffered. Medical men say that 


appendicitis is caused even by an orange-seed remain- 
ing in the intestines. But an orange-seed cannot find 
permanent lodgment in a clean healthy body. When 
the intestines get weakened they are unable to expel 
such foreign matter. My intestines too must have 
weakened and hence the inception of appendicitis in 
me. Children eat all manner of things and the mother 
can never watch them all the time. Yet they do not 
suffer as their intestines are functioning vigorously. Let 
no one therefore mistake me for a n^i^hthk.i Brahmu- 
chan, who should be made of infinitely sterner stuff. I 
am not an ideal Brahmachan although I aspire to be one. 

Brahmacharya does not mean that one may not 
touch a woman, even one's sister, in any circumstance 
whatsoever. But it does mean that one's state of mind 
should be as calm and unruffled during such contact 
as when one touches, say, a piece of paper. A man's 
Btahmacharya avails for nothing if he must hesitate in 
nursing his sister who is ill. He has to be as free from 
excitement in case of contact with the fairest damsel on 
earth as in contact with a dead body. If you wish your 
children to attain such Brahmacharya, the framing of 
their curriculum must not rest with you but with a 
Bnilnnachari like myself, imperfect as I am. 

A Brahmachan is a Sannvasi by nature. Brahmachar- 
yashram is superior to Sannvu ti, but we have thoroughly 
degraded it, and hence the degradation of Gnhasthash-am 
as well as Vanaprastkashrum, and the disappearance of 
Sann-jasa Such is our sorry plight. 

If we take to the satanic way I have described, we 
will not be able to face the Pathans even after five 
hundred years. But if we take to the godly way we can 
meet them this very day. For, the change of mental 
attitude necessary in following the latter can take place 
in a moment, while building up the body to the 
required standard would take ages. The nation, God 
willing, can follow the godly way if only the parents 
prepare an atmosphere favourable to the observance 
of Brahmacharya on the part of the rising generation. 


It is not easy to write on this .subject. But my own 
experience being fairly extensive I am always desirous 
of placing some of its results before the reader, ^ome 
letters which I have received have reinforced this desire. 

A correspondent asks : 

"What is B.^knichurya ? Is it possible to observe it in its 
perfection 9 If yes, have you attained that state?" 

" Brahtna^iujya properly and fully understood means 
search after Brahma. As Brahma is present in every one 
of us, we must seek for it within with the help of medi- 
tation and consequent realization. Realization is impos- 
sible without complete control of all the senses. There- 
fore Brahmacharyci signifies control of all the senses at 
all times and at all places in thought, word and deed. 

Perfect BrahuiUuuis, men or women, are perfectly 
sinless. They are therefore near to God. They are 
like God. 

I have no doubt that such perfect observance of 
Brahmacharya is possible. I regret to say that I have 
not attained such perfection, although my effort in that 
direction is ceaseless and I have not given up hope of 
attaining it in this very life. 

I am on my guard when awake. I have acquired 
control over the body. I am also fairly restrained in 
speech. But as regards thoughts there still remains 
much for me to do. When I wish to concentrate my 
thoughts upon a particular subject, I am disturbed by 
other thoughts too and thus there is a conflict between 
them. Yet during waking hours I am able to prevent 
their collision, 1 may be said to have reached a state 
where 1 am free from unclean thoughts. But I cannot 
exercise an equal control over my thoughts in sleep. 
In sleep all manner of thoughts enter my mind, and I 

^Translation by Valji Govmdji Desai o an article in Naiajivan, 
25th May, 1924. 


also dream unexpected dreams. Sometimes there arises 
a craving for pleasures previously enjoyed. When these 
cravings are impure there are bad dreams. This 
condition implies sinful life. 

My thoughts of sin are scotched but not killed. If 
I had acquired perfect mastery over my thoughts, I 
should not have suffered from pleurisy, dysentery and 
appendicitis as I have during the last ten years. I 
believe that when the soul is sinless, the body which 
she inhabits is healthy too. That is to say, as the soul 
progresses towards freedom from sin, the body also 
tends to become immune from disease. But a healthy 
body in this case does not mean a strong body. A 
powerful soul lives only in a weak body. As the soul 
advances in strength the body languishes. A perfectly 
healthy body might yet be quite emaciated. A strong 
body is often diseased. Even if there be no disease, 
such a body catches infection soon, while a perfectly 
healthy body enjoys complete immunity from it. Pure 
blood has the power of expelling all obnoxious germs. 

This wonderful state is indeed difficult to reach. Or 
else I should have reached it already, for I am confident 
that I have not been indifferent in adopting every 
single measure conducing to that end. There is no 
external thing which can keep me from my goal, but 
it is not given us easily to wipe out the -impressions 
left by past actions. I am not at all despondent in spite 
of this delay, for I can conceive the state of perfect 
freedom from sin, I can even catch a faint glimpse of 
it. And the progress I have made gives ground for 
hope, not for despair. Even if I die without realizing 
my aspiration, I shall not believe that I am defeated. 
For I believe in a future life as strongly as I do in the 
present. And so I know that the least possible effort is not 

I have entered into these autobiographical details in 
order that my correspondents and others in a like con- 
dition might feel encouraged and cultivate self-confidence. 
Atma is the same in every one of us. All souls possess 


equal potentialities; only some have developed their 
powers while others have them in a dormant condition. 
These latter too will have a like experience, if only 
they try. 

Thus far I have dealt with Brahmacharya in its wider 
significance, Brahmacharya in the popular or current 
acceptance of the term means control of animal passion 
in thought, word and deed. This meaning is also correct 
as the control of passion has been held to be very diffi- 
cult. The same stress has not been laid upon the control 
of the palate, and hence the control of passion has grown 
more difficult and almost impossible. Medical men believe 
that passion is stronger in a body worn out by disease, 
and therefore Brahmacharya appears hard to our 
enervated people. 

I have spoken above of a weak but healthy body. 
Let no one therefore run away with the idea that we 
should neglect physical culture. I have expounded the 
highest form of Brahmacharya in my broken language 
which may perhaps be misunderstood. One who wishes 
to attain perfect control of all the senses must be pre- 
pared in the end to welcome weakness of body. All 
desire for bodily strength vanishes when there is no 
longer any attachment for the body. 

But the body of a Brahmachari who has conquered 
animal passion must be very strong and full of lustre. 
Even this restricted Brahmacharya is a wonderful thing. 
One who is free from carnal thoughts even in his dreams 
is worthy of the world's adoration. It is clear that control 
of the other senses is an easy thing for him. 

Another friend writes : 

" My condition is pitiable. Tne same vicious thoughts disturb 
me day and night, in the office, on the road, when I am reading 
or working or even praying. How am I to control my thoughts ? 
How can I look upon womankind as upon my own mother ? How 
can nothing but the purest affection emanate from the eyes? 
How can I eradicate wicked thoughts ? I have your article on 
Brahmacharya before me, but it seems I cannot profit by it at all.*' 

This is indeed heart-rending. Many of us are in a 
like predicament. But so long as the mind is up against 


wicked thoughts there is no reason to get disheartened. 
The eyes should be closed and the ears stopped with 
cotton, if they are sinning. It is a good practice to walk 
with the eyes cast downwards so that there is no occa- 
sion for them to wander in other directions. One should 
flee from the place where unclean talk is going on or 
where unclean music is being sung. 

Control should be acquired over the organ of taste. 
My experience is that one who has not mastered taste 
cannot control animal passion either. It is no -easy task 
to conquer the palate. But conquest of passion is bound 
up with the conquest of the palate. One of the means 
of controlling tasts is to give up spices and condiments 
altogether .or as far as possible. Another and a more 
effective means is always to cultivate a feeling that we 
eat just in order to sustain the body and never for taste. 
We take in air not for taste but for life. Just as we take 
water to quench our thirst, in the same way should we 
take food only to satisfy hunger. Unfortunately parents 
make us contract a contrary habit from very childhood. 
They corrupt us by giving us all manner of delicacies 
not for our sustenance but out of mistaken affection. We 
have got to fight against this unfavourable home 

But our most powerful ally in conquering animal 
passion is Ramanama or some similar mantra. The 
Dwadisha mantra will also serve the same purpose. 
One may repeat any mmtra one pleases. I have sug- 
gested Ramanama as I have been familiar with it since 
childhood and as it is my constant support in my 
struggles. One must be completely absorbed in whatever 
mant>a one selects. One should not mind if other 
thoughts disturb one during the japj I am confident 
that one who still goes on with the japa in faith will 
conquer in the end. The mantra becomes one's staff 
of life and carries one through every ordeal. One 
should not seek worldly profit from such sacred mantras. 
The characteristic power of these mantras lies in their 
standing guard over personal purity, and every diligent 


seeker will realize this at once. It should, however, be 
* remembered that the mantra is not to bet repeated 
parrotlike, One should pour one's soul into it. The parrot 
repeats such mantras mechanically; we must repeat 
them intelligently in the hope of driving out undesirable 
thoughts and with full faith in the power of the mantras 
to assist us to do so. 


A friend writes to Mahadev Desai : 

"You will remember that in an article on Brahmacharya 
published in Navajivan some time ago, translated in Young, India 
by you, Gandhiji admitted that he still had bad dreams. The 
moment I read it I felt that such admissions could have no whole* 
some effect and I came to know later that my fear was justified. 

11 During our sojourn in England my friends and I kept our 
character unscathed in spite of temptations. We remained 
absolutely* free from wine, woman and meat. But on reading 
Gandhiji's article one of the friends exclaimed to me in despair : 
If such is the case with Gandhiji even after his herculean 
efforts, where are we ? It is useless . to attempt to observe 
Brahmacharya. Gandhiji's confession has entirely changed my 
point of view. Take me to be lost from today.' Not without some 
hesitation I tried to reason with him, If the way is so difficult 
for men like Gandhiji, it is much more so for us, and we should 
therefore redouble our effort; ' the way Gandhiji or you would 
argue. But it was all in vain. A character that had been spotless so 
l6ng was thus bespattered with mire. What would Gandhiji or you 
say, if someone were to hold Gandhiji responsible for this fall ? 

"As long as 1 had only one such instance in mind, 1 did not 
write to you. You would possibly have put me off by saying that] 
it was an exceptional case. But there were more such instances, 
and my fear has been more than justified. 

I know that there are certain things which are quite easy 
for Gandhiji to achieve, and which are impossible for me. But 
by the grace of God, L can say that something which may'be 
impossible for even Gandhiji may be possible for me. It is this 
consciousness or pride that has saved me from a fall, though 
the admission above-mentioned has completely disturbed my 
sense of security. 

"Reprinted from Young India, February 28, 1926. 


" Will you please invite Gandhiji's attention to this fact, espe- 
cially when he is just in the midst of his autobiography? It is 
certainly brave to say the truth and the naked truth, but the 
world and the readers of Navajivan and Young India will 
misunderstand him. I fear that one man's food may be another 
man's poison. " 

The complaint does not come to me as a surprise. 
When non-cooperation was in full swing, and when during 
the course of the struggle I confessed to an error of 
judgment, a friend innocently wrote to me : " Even if it 
was an error, you ought not to have confessed it. People 
ought to be encouraged to believe that there is at least 
one man who is infallible. You used to be looked upon 
as such. Your confession will now dishearten them. " 
This made me smile and also made me sad. I smiled at 
the correspondent's simpleness. But the very thought of 
encouraging people to believe a fallible man to be in- 
fallible was more than I could bear. A knowledge of 
one as one is, can always do good to the people, never 
any harm. I firmly believe that my prompt confessions of 
my errors have been all to the good for them. For me 
at any rate they have been a blessing. 

And I may say the same thing of my admission about 
the bad dreams. It would do the world a great deal of 
harm, if I claimed to be a perfect Brahmachan without 
being one. For it would sully Brahmacharya and dim 
the lustre of truth. How dare I undervalue Brahmacharya 
by false pretences ? I can see today that the means I 
suggest for the observance of Brahmacharya are' not 
adequate, are not found to be invariably efficacious, 
because I am not a perfect Brahmachari. It would be an 
awful thing for the world to be allowed to believe that 
I was a perfect Brahmachan whilst I could not show the 
royal road to Brahmacharya. 

Why should it not be sufficient for the world to know 
that I am a genuine seeker, that I am wide awake, 
and that my striving is ceaseless and unbending? Why 
should not this knowledge be sufficient encouragement 
to others ? It is wrong to deduce conclusions from false 
premises. It is wisest to draw them from things achieved. 


Why argue that, because a man like me could not escape 
unclean thoughts, there is no hope for the rest? Why 
not rather argue that, if a 'Gandhi, who was once given 
to lust, can today live as friend and brother to his 
wife and can look upon the fairest damsel as his 
sister or daughter, there is hope for the lowliest 
and the lost? If God was merciful to one who was 
so full of lust, certainly all the rest would have His 
mercy too. 

The friends of the correspondent who were put back 
because of a knowledge of my imperfections had never 
gone forward at all. It was a false virtue that fell at the 
first blast. The truth and observance of Brahmachary.i 
and similar eternal principles do not depend on persons 
imperfect as myself. They rest on the sure foundations 
of the penance of the many who strove for them and 
live them in their fulness. When I have the fitness to 
stand alongside those perfect beings, there will be much 
more determination and force in my language than today. 
He whose thoughts do not wander and think evil, whose 
sleep knows no dreams and who can be wide awake 
even whilst asleep, is truly healthy. He does not need 
to take quinine. His incorruptible blood will have the 
inherent virtue of resisting all infection. It is for such a 
perfectly healthy state of body, mind and spirit that I am 
striving. This knows no defeat or failure. I invite the 
correspondent, his friends of little faith,- and others to 
join me in that striving, and I wish that they may go 
forward even like the correspondent quicker than I. Let 
my example inspire those who are behind me with more 
confidence. All that I have achieved has been in spite 
of my weakness, in spite of my liability to passion, and 
because of my ceaseless striving and infinite faith in 
God's grace. 

No one need therefore despair. My Mahatmaship is 
worthless. It is due to my outward activities, due to my 
politics which is the least part of me and is therefore 
evanescent. What is of abiding worth is my insistence 
-on truth, non-violence and Brahmachatw* which is the 


real part of me. That permanent part of me, however 
small, is not to be despised. It is my all. I prize even 
the failures and disillusionments which are but steps 
towards success. 


I am being inundated with letters on Brahmacharya 
and means to its attainment. Let me repeat in different 
language what I have already said or written on previous 
occasions. Brahmacharya is not mere mechanical celibacy, 
it means complete control over all the senses, and free- 
dom from lust in thought, word and deed. As such it is 
the royal road to self-realization or attainment of Brahma. 

The ideal Brahmachan has not to struggle with sen- 
sual deske or desire for procreation; it never troubles 
him at all. The whole world will be to him one vast 
family, he will centre all his ambition in relieving the 
misery of mankind, and the desire for procreation will 
be to him as gall and wormwood. He who has realized 
the misery of mankind in all its magnitude will neve!r be 
stirred by passion. He will instinctively know the fountain 
of strength in him, and he will ever persevere to keep 
it undefiled. His humble strength will command respect 
of the world, and he will wield an influence greater than 
that of the sceptred monarch. 

But I am told that this is an impossible ideal, that I 
do not take count of the natural attraction between man 
and woman. I refuse to believe that the sensual affinity, 
referred to here, can be at all regarded as natural; in 
that case the deluge would soon be over us. The natural 
affinity between man and woman is the attraction between 
brother and sister, mother and son, or father and 
daughter. It is this natural attraction that sustains the 
world. I should find it impossible to live, much less carry 

* Reprinted from Young India, April 29, 1926. It then appeared 
under the caption ' On Brahmacharya '. 


on my work, if I did not regard the whole of womankind 
as sisters, daughters or mothers. If I looked at them 
with lustful eyes, it would be the surest way to perdition. 

Procreation is a natural phenomenon indeed, but 
within specific limits. A transgression of those limits 
imperils womankind, emasculates the race, induces 
disease, puts a premium on vice, and makes the world 
ungodly. A man in the grip of the sensual desire is a 
man without moorings. If such a one were to guide 
society, to flood it with his writings, and men were to 
be swayed by them, where would society be ? And yet 
we have that very thing happening today. Supposing a 
moth whirling round a light were to record the moments 
of its fleeting joy and we were to imitate it, regarding 
it as an example, where would we be? No, I must 
declare with all the power I can command that sensual 
attraction even between husband and wife is unnatural. 
Marriage is meant to cleanse the hearts of the couple 
of sordid passion and take them nearer to God. Lustless 
love between husband and wife is not impossible. 
Man is not a brute. He had risen to a higher state after 
countless births in the brute creation. He is born to 
stand, not to walk on all fours or crawl. Bestiality is as 
far removed from manhood as matter from spirit. 

In conclusion I shall summarize the means to its 

The first step is the realization of its necessity. 

The next is gradual control of the senses. A Brahma- 
chan must needs control his palate. He must eat to live, 
and not for enjoyment. He must see only clean things 
and close his eyes before anything unclean. It is thus 
a sign of polite breeding to walk with one's eyes towards 
the ground and not wandering about from object to 
object. A Brahmackan will likewise hear nothing obscene 
or unclean, smell no strong, stimulating thing. The smell 
of clean earth is far sweeter than the fragrance of artificial 
scents and essences. Let the aspirant to Brahmacharya 
also keep his hands and feet engaged in all the waking 
hours in healthful activity. Let him also fast occasionally. 


The third step is to have clean companions, clean 
friends and clean books. 

The last and not the least is prayer. Let him repeat 
Ramanama with all his heart regularly every day, and 
ask for divine grace. 

None of these things is difficult for an average man 
or woman. They are simplicity itself. But their very 
simplicity is embarrassing. Where there is a will, the 
way is simple enough. Men have not the will for it and 
hence vainly grope. The fact that the world rests on 
the observance, more or less, of Brahmacharya or res- 
traint, means that it is necessary and practicable. 


I receive so many letters questioning me regarding 
celibacy and I hold such strong views upon it, that I 
may no longer, especially at this the most critical period 
of national life, withhold my views and results of my 
experience from the reader of Young India. 

The word in Sanskrit corresponding to celibacy is 
Brahmacharya, and the latter means much more than 
celibacy. Brahmacharya means perfect control over all the 
senses and organs. For the perfect Brahmachan nothing 
is impossible. But it is an ideal state which is rarely 
realized. It is almost like Euclid's line which exists only 
in imagination, never capable of being physically drawn. 
It is nevertheless an important definition in geometry 
yielding great result. So may a perfect Brahmachan exist 
only in imagination. But if we did not keep him cons- 
tantly before our mind's eye, we should be like a 
rudderless ship. The nearer the approach to the imaginary 
state, the greater the perfection. 

But for the time being I propose to confine myself 
to Brahmacharya as in the sense of celibacy. I hold that a 
life of perfect continence in thought, speech and action is 

*Reprinted from Young India, October 13, 1920. 


A correspondent, whom I know well, raises an issue. 
I take it for purely academic interest, because I know 
the views he has set forth are not his. "Is not our pre- 
sent-day morality unnatural ? " he asks. "If it was natural, 
it should have been the same everywhere in all ages; 
but every race and community seem to have its own 
peculiar marriage laws, and in enforcing them men have 
made themselves worse than beasts. For diseases which 
are unknown amongst animals are quite common amongst 
men; infanticide, abortions, child-marriages, which are 
impossible in the brute creation, are the curse of the 
society that holds up marriage as a sacrament, and no 
end of evil results have sprung from what we uphold 
as laws of morality. And the miserable condition of 
Hindu widows what is it due to, but to the existing 
marriage laws ? Why not go back to nature, and take a 
leaf out of the book of the brute creation? " 

I do not know whether the advocates of free love 
in the West resort to the argument summarized above or 
have any stronger reasons to put forth, but I am sure 
that the tendency to regard the marriage bond as bar- 
barous is distinctly Western. If the argument is also 
borrowed from the West, there is no difficulty about 
meeting it. 

It is a mistake to institute a comparison between man 
and the brute, and it is this comparison that vitiates the 
whole argument, for man is higher than the brute in 
his moral instincts and moral institutions. The law of 
nature as applied to the one is different from the law 
of nature as applied to the other. Man has reason, 
discrimination, and free will such as it is. The brute has 
no such thing. It is not a free agent, and knows no 
distinction between virtue and vice, good and evil. Man, 

* A condensed translation from Nara)ivan, reprinted from Young 
India. June 3, 1926. 


being a free agent, knows these distinctions, and when 
he follows his higher nature, shows himself far superior 
to the brute, but when he follows his baser nature, can 
show himself lower than the brute. Even the races 
regarded as the most uncivilized on earth accept some 
restriction on sexual relations. If it be said that the res- 
triction is itself barbarous, then freedom from all restraints 
should be the law of man. If all men were to act according 
to this lawless law, there would be perfect chaos within 
twentyfour hours. Man being by nature more passionate 
than the brute, the moment all restraint was withdrawn, 
the lava of unbridled passion would overspread the whole 
earth and destroy mankind. Man is superior to the brute 
inasmuch as he is capable of self-restraint and sacrifice, 
of which the brute is incapable. 

Some of the diseases that are so common at the pre- 
sent day are the result of infringement of marriage laws. 
I should like to know a single instance of a man strictly 
observing the restraint of the marriage bond having 
suffered from the diseases the correspondent has in mind. 
Infanticide, child marriages and the like are also the 
result of the breach of marriage laws. For the law lays 
down that a man or woman shall choose a mate only 
when he or she has come of age, is healthy, and capable 
of restraint, and desires to have progeny. Those who 
' strictly obey this law and regard the marriage bond as 
a sacrament have never an occasion to be unhappy or 
miserable. Where marriage is a sacrament, the union is 
not the union of bodies but the union of souls indisso- 
luble even by the death of either party. Where there 
is a true union of souls, the remarriage of a widow or 
widower is unthinkable, improper and wrong. Marriages, 
where the true law of marriage is ignored, do not 
deserve the name. If we have very few true marriages 
nowadays, it is not the institution of marriage that is to 
blame, but the prevailing form of it, which should be 

The correspondent contends that marriage is no 
moral or religicus bond but a custom, and a custom 


which is opposed to religion and morality, and hence 
deserves to be abolished. I submit that marriage is a 
fence that protects religion. If the fence were to be 
destroyed, religion would go to pieces. The foundation 
of religion is restraint, and marriage is nothing but 
restraint. The man who knows no restraint has no hope 
of self-realization. I confess it may be difficult to prove 
the necessity of restraint to an atheist or a materialist. 
But he who knows the perishable nature of flesh from 
the imperishable nature of the spirit instinctively knows 
that self-realization is impossible without self-discipline 
and self-restraint. The body may either be a playground 
of passion, or a temple of self-realization. If it is the 
latter, there is no room there for libertinism. The spirit 
needs must curb the flesh every moment. 

Woman will be the apple of discord where the 
marriage bond is loose, where there is no observance 
of the lavfr of restraint. If men were as unrestricted as 
the brutes, they would straightway take the road to 
destruction, I am firmly of opinion that all the evils that 
the correspondent complains of can be eradicated 
not by abolishing marriage but by a systematic under- 
standing and observance of the law of marriage. 

I agree that, whereas amongst some communities 
marriage is permitted amongst very near relations, it is 
prohibited among other communities; that whereas some 
communities forbid polygamy, some permit it. Whilst 
one would wish that there was a uniform moral law 
accepted by all communities, the diversity does not 
point to the necessity of abolishing all restraint. As we 
grow wise in experience, our morality will gain uniformity. 
Even today the moral sense of the world holds up 
monogamy as the highest ideal, and no religion makes 
polygamy obligatory. The ideal remains unaffected by the 
relaxation of practice according to time and place. 

I need not reiterate my views regarding remarriage 
of widows, as I consider remarriage of virgin widows 
not only desirable but the bounden duty of all parents 
who happen to have such widowed daughters. 



Readers of Young India will excuse me for discussing 
in public delicate problems I would fain discuss 
only in private. But the literature I have felt compelled 
to glance through, and the copious correspondence my 
review of M. Bureau's book has given rise to, demand 
a public discussion of a question which is of paramount 
interest to society. A Malabar correspondent writes : 

"In your review of M. Bureau's book it is stated that there 
is no case on record of celibacy or long abstention producing 
any evil effects on us. In my own case, however, three weeks 
seem to be the utmost limit of beneficial abstention. At the end 
of that period I usually feel a heaviness of body, a restlessness 
both of body and mind, leading to bad temper. Relief is obtained 
either by normal coitus or nature herself coming to the rescue 
by an involuntary discharge. Far from feeling weak or nervous, 
I become the next morning calm and light, and am able to 
proceed to my work with added gusto. 

"A friend of mine, however, developed distinctly injurious 
symptoms by abstention. He is about 32 years of age, a strict 
vegetarian and a very religious person He is absolutely free 
from any vicious habits of body or mind. Yet he was having till 
two years ago, when he married, Copious discharges at night 
followed by weakness of body and depression of spirits. Lately 
he developed excruciating pain in the abdominal region. On the 
advice of an ayurvedic doctor he married and is now cured. 

" 1 am intellectually convinced of the superiority of celibacy 
on which all our ancient Shastras agree. But the experiences I 
have quoted above make it clear that we are not able to absorb 
in our system the highly vital secretion of the testes , whidh con- 
sequently becomes a toxic product. I humbly request you, 
therefore, to publish in Young India, for the benefit of people 
like me who have no doubt as to the importance of chastity 
acd abstention, any device, such as the asanas of Hathayoga, which 
will enable us to assimilate and absorb the vital product in our 

The instances quoted by the correspondent are 
typical. In several such cases I have observed hasty 
generalizations from insufficient data. Ability to retain 
and assimilate the vital fluid is a matter of long training. 

^Reprinted from Young India, September 2, 1926. 


It must be so, as it gives a strength to body and mind 
such as no other process does with equal effect. Drugs 
and mechanical contrivances may keep the body in a 
tolerable condition, but they sap the mind and make it 
too weak to resist the play of a multitude of passions 
which like so many deadly foes surround every human 

Too often do we expect results in spite of practices 
which are calculated to retard, if not to defeat, them. 
The common mode of life is shaped to minister to our 
passions. Our food, our literature, our amusements, our 
business hours are all regulated so as to excite and feed 
our animal passions. The vast majority of us want to 
marry, to have children and generally to enjoy our- 
selves, be it ever so moderately. It will be so more or 
less to the end of time. 

But there are, as there always have been, exceptions 
to the general rule. Men have wanted to live a life wholly 
dedicated to the service of humanity, which is the same 
thing as saying to God. They will not divide their time 
between the rearing of a special family and the tending 
of the general human family. Necessarily such men and 
women cannot afford to live the general life which is 
designed to promote the special, individual interest. 
Those who will be celibates for the sake of God need 
to renounce the laxities of life, and find their enjoyment 
in its austere rigours. They may be ' in the world ' but 
not ' of it '. Their food, their business, their hours of 
business, their recreations, their literature, their outlook 
upon life must, therefore, be different from the general. 

It is now time to inquire whether the correspondent 
and his friend desired to live the life of complete absten- 
tion and whether they modelled it accordingly. If not, 
it is not difficult to understand the relief that the relaxa- 
tion brought in the first case and the weakness that 
supervened in the second case. Marriage no doubt was 
the remedy in that second case, as in the vast majority 
of cases marriage is the most natural and desirable state 
when one finds oneself even against one's will living the 


married life in one's daily thought. The potency of 
thought unsuppressed but unembodied is far greater 
than that of thought embodied that is translated into 
action. And when the action is brought under due con- 
trol, it reacts upon and regulates the thought itself. 
Thought thus translated into action becomes a prisoner 
and is brought under subjection. Thus considered, mar- 
riage too is a mode of restraint. 

I must not undertake in the course of a newspaper 
article to give detailed instructions for the guidance of 
those who desire to live a life of ordered restraint. I 
must refer them to my booklet on health written years 
ago with that end in view. It does need revision in cer- 
tain parts in the light of fresh experiences, but there is 
nothing in the book which I would withdraw. General 
directions, however, may be safely reiterated here : 

1. Eat moderately, always leaving the dining room 
with a feeling of pleasant hunger. 

2. Highly spiced and fatty vegetarian foods must be 
avoided. Separate fat is wholly unnecessary when an 
adequate supply of milk is available. A little food suffices 
when there is little vital waste. 

3. Both the body and the mind must be constantly 
occupied in clean pursuits. 

4. Early to bed and early to rise is a necessity. 

5. Above all a life of restraint presupposes an intense 
living desire for reunion with God. When there 
is heart perception of this central fact, there will be 
continuously increasing reliance upon God to keep His 
instrument pure and in order. The Gita says : " Passions 
return again and again in spite of fasting, but even the 
desire ceases when the Divine is seen. 11 This is literally 

The correspondent refers to asams and pranayama. I 
believe that they have an important place in the practice 
of restraint. But my own experiences in this direction, 
I am sorry to say, are not worth recording. There is, 
to my knowledge, little literature on the subject that is 
based on present experience. But it is a field worthy 


of exploration. I would, however, warn the inexperienced 
reader from trying it or accepting the directions of the 
next hathayogi he may meet with. Let him be sure that 
an abstemious and godly life is wholly sufficient to 
achieve the much to be desired restraint. 


" I have been very interested in your articles in Young India on 
the subject of birth control. I expect you have read J. A. Hadfteld's 
book Psychology and Motals. I want to draw your attention to this 
passage from it ' We therefore speak of sexual pleasure when 
the expression of this instinct is alien to our moral sense, and 
we speak of sexual joy when the expression of this instinct is 
in conformity with the sentiment of love. Such expressions of 
sex feelings, far from destroying, actually deepen, the love of 
husband and wife, whereas free sexual indulgence on the one 
hand, and ^n the other hand sexual abstinence practised undei the 
false idea that the instinct is but a low pleasure, often produces 11 ntabihty 
and the weakening of love, ' i. e. he holds that the act of sexual union 
has a sacramental value in deepening the love between a man 
and a woman, quite apart from the production of children. If he 
is right in this and I am inclined to think he is, for, apart from 
the fact that he is an eminent psychologist, I have myself known 
of cases in which married life has been distorted and spoiled 
by attempts to repress the natural desire for physical expression 
of love then I wonder how you would justify your doctrine 
that the only justifiable act of union is that intended for the 
production of children. For consider this case. A young man and 
a young woman love each other. It is beautiful and part of God's 
plan that they should do so. But they haven't enough money to 
support and educate a child. And I suppose you would agree 
that to bring a child into the world without being able to do 
these things is sinful; or if you like, say that it is bad for the 
woman's health to have one, or that she has had too may 
anything like that. Now according to you a couple has two alter- 
natives either they must marry and yet live separately, inj 
which case, if Hadfield is right, their love will tend to be 
spoiled, because of the irritability produced by repressed 
desires, or they must remain unmarried, in which case too their 
love will be spoiled, for nature gloriously ignores our human 

*Reprmted from Young India, September 16, 1926. 


institutions. They might, of course, go right away from each 
other : but even in separation their minds would be active, and 
so able to develop complexes. And even if you change society 
so that it is possible for all people to have as many children 
as come, there is still the danger to the race of overbreeding 
and to the individual woman of excessive childbirth. For a man 
might control himself tremendously and still have a child a year. 
You must either advocate chastity or birth control, for occasional 
indulgence may lead as it has sometimes done amongst English 
clergymen to the death of the mother bringing each year into 
the world the children her husband is pleased to say God 
sends her 

What you call self-control is quite as much an interference 
with nature as contraceptives more in fact. Men may overindulge 
their passions through birth control methods but then they do 
this without them in all conscience and at least if they 
don't produce children by their sin, they alone will surfer for 
it and not others. Remember the mine-owners will win this pre- 
sent fight because there are too many miners. The too profuse 
breeders punish not only the children they breed but also huma- 
nity in general. " 

So writes a correspondent. The letter to me is a 

study in mental attitudes and their influence. Mind takes 

a rope to be a snake, and the man with that mentality 

turns pale and runs away, or takes up a stick to belabour 

the fancied snake. Another mistakes a sister for wife 

and has animal passion rising in his breast. The passion 

subsides the moment he discovers his mistake. And so 

in the case quoted by the correspondent. No doubt, 

whilst ' abstinence is practised under the false idea that 

the instinct is but a low pleasure, ' it is likely ' to produce 

irritability and the weakening of love. ' But if abstinence 

is practised with the desire to strengthen the bond of 

love, to purify it, and to conserve the vital energy for 

a better purpose, instead of promoting irritability it will 

promote equanimity, and instead of loosening the bond 

of affection strengthen it. Love based upon indulgence 

- 1 nassion is at best a selfish affair and likely to 

e slightest strain. And why should the 

* sacrament in the human species, if it is 

the lower animals ? Why should we not 

lat it is in reality, i. e. a simple act of 


procreation to which we are helplessly drawn for the 
perpetuation of the species ? Only man, having been 
gifted with a free will to a limited extent, exercises the 
human prerogative of self-denial for the sake of the 
nobler purpose to which he is born than his brother 
animals. It is the force of habit which makes us think 
the sexual act to be necessary and desirable for the pro- 
motion of love, apart from procreation, in spite of innu- 
merable experiences to the contrary that it does not 
deepen love, that it is in no way necessary for its reten- 
tion or enrichment. Indeed instances can be quoted in 
which that bond has grown stronger with abstinence. No 
doubt abstinence must be a voluntary act undertaken 
for mutual moral advancement. 

Human society is a ceaseless growth, an unfoldment 
in terms of spirituality. If so, it must be based on ever- 
increasing restraint upon the demands of the flesh. Thus 
marriage must be considered to be a sacrament imposing 
discipline upon the partners, restricting them to the 
physical union only among themselves and for the pur- 
pose only of procreation when both the partners desire 
and are prepared for it. Then in either case supposed 
by the correspondent, there would be no question of 
sexual act outside the desire for procreation. 

There is an end to all argument, if we start, as my 
correspondent has started, with the premise that sexual 
act is a necessity outside of the purpose of procreation. 
The premise is vitiated in the presence of authentic in- 
stances that can be cited of complete abstinence having 
been practised by some of the highest among mankind 
in all climes. It is no argument against the possibility 
or desirability of abstinence to say that it is difficult for 
the vast majority of mankind. What was not possible 
for the vast majority a hundred years ago has been 
found possible today. And what is a hundred years in 
the cycle of time open to us for making infinite progress ? 
If scientists are right, it was but yesterday that we 
found ourselves endowed with the human body* Who 
knows, who dare prescribe, its limitation ? Indeed every 


day we are discovering the infiniteness of its capacity 
for good as well as evil. 

If the possibility and desirability of abstinence be 
admitted, we must find out and devise the means of 
attaining it. And as I have said in a previous article, 
life must be remodelled, if we are to live under res- 
traint and discipline. We may not, as the vulgar saying 
goes, eat the cake and have it too, If we would impose 
restraint upon the organs of procreation, we must impose 
it upon all the others. If the eye and the ear and the 
nose and the tongue, the hands and the feet are let 
loose, it is impossible to keep the primary organ under 
check. Most cases of irritability, hysteria and even 
insanity, which are wrongly ascribed to attempts at 
continence, will in truth be found traceable to the incon- 
tinence of the other senses. No sin, no breach of nature's 
laws, goes unpunished. 

I must not quarrel about words. If self-control be 
an interference with nature precisely in the same sense 
as contraceptives, be it so. I would still maintain that the 
one interference is lawful and desirable because it pro- 
motes the well-being of the individuals as well as society, 
whereas the other degrades both and is therefore un- 
lawful. Self-control is the surest and the only method 
of regulating the birth-rate. Birth-control by contracep- 
tives is race suicide. 

Lastly, if the mine-owners are in the wrong and still 
win, they will do so not because the miners overbreed, 
but because the miners have not learnt the lesson of 
restraint all along the line. If miners had no children, 
they would have no incentive for any betterment and 
no provable cause for a rise in wages. Need they 
drink, gamble, smoke? Will it be any answer to say 
that mine-owners do all the things and yet have the 
upper hand? If the miners do not claim to be better 
than the capitalist, what right have they to ask for the 
world's sympathy ? Is it to multiply capitalists and 
strengthen capitalism? We are called upon to pay 
homage to democracy under the promise of a better 


world when it reigns supreme. Let us not reproduce 
on a vast scale the evils we choose to ascribe to capi- 
talist and capitalism. 

I am painfully conscious of the fact that self-control 
is not easily attainable. But its slowness need not ruffle 
us. Haste is waste. Impatience will not end the evil 
of excessive birth-rate among the proletariat. Workers 
among the proletariat have a tremendous task before 
them. Let them not rule out of their lives the lessons 
of restraint that the greatest teachers among mankind 
have handed to us out of the rich stores of their experi- 
ences. The fundamental truths they have given us 
were tested by them in a better laboratory than any 
equipped under the most up-to-date conditions. The 
necessity of self-control is the common teaching of 
them all. 


"I am a husband aged 30. My wife is about the same age. 
We have five children, of which two are fortunately dead I 
know the responsibility for the rest of our children But I find it 
difficult, if not impossible, to discharge that responsibility. You 
have advised self-restraint. Well, I have practised it for the 
last three years, but that is very much against my partner's 
wish. She insists on what poor mortals call the joy of life. You 
from your superior height may call it a sin But my partner does 
not see it in that light. Nor is she afraid of bearing more children 
to me. She has not the sense of responsibility that I flatter my- 
self with the belief 1 have. My parents side more with my wife 
than with me, and there are daily quarrels. The denial of satis- 
faction to my wife has made her so peevish and so irritable 
that she flares up on the slightest pretext. My problem now is 
how to solve the difficulty. Tne children I have are too many 
for me. I am too poor to support them, The wife seems utterly 
irreconcilable If she does not have the satisfaction she demands, 
she may even go astray, or go mad, or commit suicide. I tell 
you, sometimes I feel that, if the law of the land permitted it, I 
would shoot down all unwanted children as you would stray 

^Reprinted from Young India, April 26, 1928. 


dogs. For the last three months I have gone without the second 
meal, without tiffin. I have business obligations which prevent me 
from fasting for days. I get no compassion from the wife because 
she considers I am a humbug. I know the literature on birth 
control. It is temptingly written. And I have read your book on 
self-restraint. I find myself between the devil and the deep sea." 

The foregoing is a faithful paraphrase of a heart- 
rending letter from a young man who has given me his 
full name and address and whom I have known for some 
years. Being afraid to give his name, he tells me he 
wrote twice before anonymously, hoping that I would deal 
with his communications in the pages of Young India. 
I receive so many anonymous letters of this type that I 
hesitate to deal with them, even as I have considerable 
hesitation in dealing with this letter, although I know it to 
be perfectly genuine and know it to be a letter from a 
striving soul. The subject matter is so delicate. But I see 
that I may not shirk an obvious duty, claiming as I do 
claim a fair amount of experience of such cases and 
more especially because my method has given relief in 
several similar cases. 

The condition in India, so far as English-educated 
Indians are concerned, is doubly difficult. The gulf bet- 
ween husband and wife from the point of view of social 
attainments is almost too wide to be bridgeable. Some 
young men seem to think that they have solved it satis- 
factorily by simply throwing their wives overboard, 
although they know that in their caste there is no divorce 
possible and therefore no remarriage on the part of 
their wives possible. Yet others and this is the far 
more numerous class use their wives merely as vehi- 
cles of enjoyment without sharing their intellectual life 
with them. A very small number but daily growing 
has a quickened conscience and is faced with the 
moral difficulty such as my correspondent is faced with. 

In my opinion, sexual union to be legitimate is per- 
missible only when both the parties desire it. I do not 
recognize the right of either partner to compel satisfac- 
tion. And if my position is correct in the case in point, 
there is no moral obligation on the part of the husband 


to yield to the wife's importunities. But this refusal at 
once throws a much greater and more exalted respon- 
sibility on the husband's shoulders. He will not look 
down upon his wife from his insolent height, but will 
humbly recognize that what to him is not a necessity is 
to her a fundamental necessity. He will therefore treat her 
with the utmost gentleness and love, and will have con- 
fidence in his own purity to transmute his partner's 
passion into energy of the highest type. He will therefore 
have to become her real friend, guide and physician. 
He will have to give her his fullest confidence, and with 
inexhaustible patience explain to her the moral basis of 
of his action, the true nature of the relationship that 
should subsist between husband and wife, and the true 
meaning of marriage. He will find in the process that 
many things that were not clear to him before will be 
clear, and he will draw his partner closer to him if his 
own restraint is truthful. 

In the case in point I cannot help saying that the 
desire not to have more children is not enough reason 
for refusing satisfaction. It appears almost cowardly to 
reject one's wife's advances merely for fear of having 
to support children. A check upon an unlimited increase 
in the family is a good ground for both the parties jointly 
and individually putting a restraint upon sexual desire, 
but it is not sufficient warrant for one to refuse the 
privileges of a common bed to the other. 

And why this impatience of children ? Surely there 
is enough scope for honest, hard-working and intelligent 
men to earn enough for a reasonable number of children. 
I admit that for one like my correspondent, who is 
honestly trying to devote his whole time to the service 
of the country, it is difficult to support a large and 
growing family and at the same time to serve a country, 
millions of whose children are semi-starved. I have often 
expressed the opinion in these pages that it is wrong to 
bring forth progeny in India so long as she is in bondage. 
But that is a very good reason for young men and 
young women to abstain from marriage, not a 


conclusive reason for one partner refusing sexual 
co-operation to the other. That co-operation can be 
lawfully refused, it is a duty to refuse, when the call for 
Brahmacharya on the highest ground of pure religion 
is imperative. And when such a call has really come, it 
will have its healthy reaction upon the partner. Assuming, 
however, that it does not produce such reaction in time, 
it will still be a duty to adhere to restraint even at the 
risk of losing the life or the sanity of one's partner. The 
cause of Brahmacharya demands sacrifices no less heroic 
than, say, the cause of truth or of one's country. In view 
of what I have said above, it is hardly necessary 
to state that artificial control of birth is an immoral 
practice having no place in the conception of life that 
underlies my argument. 


After full discussion and mature deliberation I took 
the vow of Brahmacharya in 1906. I had not shared 
my thoughts with my wife until then, but only consulted 
her at the time of taking the vow. She had no objec- 
tion. But I was hard put to it in making the final 
resolve. I had not the necessary strength. How was I 
to control my passions ? The elimination of carnal rela- 
tionship with one's wife seemed then a strange thing. 
But I launched forth with faith in the sustaining power 
of God. 

As I looked back upon the twenty years of the vow, 
I am filled with pleasure and wonderment. The more 
or less successful practice of self-control had been go- 
ing on since 1901. But the freedom and joy that came 
to me after taking the vow had never been experienced 
before 1906. Before the vow I had been open to being 

*Repnnt of Chapter VIII of the author's Autobiography, Part III. 


overcome by temptation at any moment. Now the 
vow was a sure shield against temptation. The great 
potentiality of Brahmacharya daily became more and 
more patent to me. The vow was taken when I was in 
Phoenix. As soon as I was free from ambulance work, 
I went to Phoenix, whence I had to return to Johannes- 
burg. In about a month of my returning there, the 
foundation of Satyagraha was laid. As though unknown 
to me, the Brahmacharya vow had been preparing me 
for it. Satyagraha had not been a preconceived plan. 
It came on spontaneously, without my having willed it. 
But I could see that all my previous steps had led up 
to that goal. I had cut down my household expenses 
at Johannesburg and gone to Phoenix, to take, as it 
were, the Brahmacharya vow. 

The knowledge that a perfect observance of Brahma- 
charya means realization of Brahman I did not owe to 
the study of the Shastra*. It slowly grew upon me with 
experience. The Shastraic texts on the subject I read 
only later in life. Every day of the vow has taken me 
nearer the knowledge that in Brahmacharya lies the 
protection of the body, the mind and the soul. For 
Brahmacharya was now no process of hard penance, 
it was a matter of consolation and joy. Every day 
revealed a fresh beauty in it. 

But if it was a matter of ever increasing joy, let no 
one believe that it was an easy thing for me. Even 
while I am past fif tysix years, I realize how hard a thing 
it is. Every day I realize more and more that it is like 
walking on the sword's edge, and I see every moment 
the necessity for eternal vigilance. 

Control of the palate is the ftrst essential in the 
observance of the vow. I found that complete control 
of the palate made the observance very easy, and so I 
now pursued my dietetic experiments not merely from 
the vegetarian's but also the Brahmachans point of 
view. As the result of these experiments I saw that the 
Brahmacharfs food should be limited, simple, spiceless 
and, if possible, uncooked. 


Six years of experiment have showed me that the 
Brahmachans ideal food is fresh fruit and nuts. The 
immunity from passion that I enjoyed when I lived on 
this food was unknown to me after I changed that diet. 
Brahmacharya needed no effort on my part in South 
Africa when I lived on fruits and nuts alone. It has been 
a matter of very great effort ever since I began to take 
milk. How I had to go back to milk from a fruit diet 
will be considered in its proper place. It is enough to 
observe here that I have not the least doubt that milk 
diet makes the Brahmacharya vow difficult to observe. Let 
no one deduce from this that all Brahmackans must give 
up milk. The effect on Brahmacharya of different kinds 
of food can be determined only after numerous 
experiments. I have yet to find a fruit substitute for 
milk which is an equally good muscle builder and easily 
digestible. The doctors, vaidyas, hakims have alike failed 
to enlighten me. Therefore, though I know milk to be 
partly a stimulant, I cannot for the time being advise 
anyone to give it up. 

As an external aid to Brahmacharya, fasting is as 
necessary as selection and restriction in diet. So over- 
powering are the senses that they can be kept under 
control only when they are completely hedged in on 
all sides, from above and from beneath. It is common 
knowledge that they are powerless without food, and so 
fasting undertaken with a view to control the senses is, 
I have no doubt, very helpful. With some fasting is of 
no avail, because assuming that mechanical fasting alone 
will make them immune, they keep their bodies without 
food, but feast their minds upon all sorts of delicacies, 
thinking all the while as to what they will eat and 
what they will drink after the fast terminates. Such fasting 
helps them in controlling neither palate nor lust. Fasting 
is useful when mind cooperates with starving body, that is 
to say, when it cultivates a distaste for the objects that are 
denied to the body. Mind is at the root of all sensuality. 
Fasting, therefore, has a limited use, for a fasting man may 
continue to be swayed by passion. But it may be said that 



extinction of the sexual passion is as a rule impossible 
without fasting, which may be said. to be indispensable 
for the observance of Brahmacharya. Many aspirants 
after Bnhmacharya fail, because in the use of their 
other senses they want to carry on as those who 
are not Brahmachans. Their effort is therefore identical 
with the effort to experience the bracing cold of winter 
in the scorching summer months. There should be a 
clear line between the life of a Brahmachan and of one 
who is not. The resemblance that there is between the 
two is only apparent. The distinction ought to be clear 
as daylight. Both use their eyesight, but whereas the 
Brahnnchan uses ft to see the glories of God, the other 
uses it to see the frivolity around him. Both use their 
ears, but whereas the one hears nothing but praises of 
God, the other feasts his ears upon ribaldry. Both often 
keep late hours, but whereas the one devotes them to 
prayer, the other fritters them away in wild and wasteful 
mirth. Both feed the inner man, but the one does so 
only to keep the temple of God in good repair, while 
the other gorges himself and makes the sacred vessel 
a stinking gutter. Thus both live as the poles apart, and 
the distance between them will grow and not diminish 
with the passage of time. 

~ Brahmacharya means control of the senses in thought, 
word and deed. Every day I have been realizing more 
and more the necessity for restraints of the kind I have 
detailed above. There is no limit to the possibilities of 
renunciation, even as there is none to those of Biahmi- 
charya. Such Brnhmachar\a is impossible of attainment 
by limited effort. For many, it must remain only as an 
ideal. An aspirant after Brahmacharya will always be 
conscious of his shortcomings, will seek out the passions 
lingering in the innermost recesses of his heart, and 
will incessantly strive to get rid of them. So long as 
thought is not under complete control of the will, 
Brahmacharya in its fulness is absent. Involuntary thought 
is an affection of the mind; and Airbing of thought 
therefore means curbing of the mind which is even 


more difficult to curb than the wind. Nevertheless the 
existence of God within makes even control of the mind 
possible. Let no one think that it is impossible because 
it is difficult. It is the highest goal, and it is no wonder 
that the highest effort should be necessary to attain it. 

But it was aftftF coming to India that I realized that 
such Brahmacharya was impossible to attain merely by 
human effort. Until then I had been labouring under the 
delusion that fruit diet alone would enable me to 
eradicate all passions, and I had flattered myself with 
the belief that I had nothing more to do. 

But I must not anticipate the chapter of my struggles. 
Meanwhile let me make it clear that those who desire 
to observe Brahmacharva with a view to realizing God 
need not despair, provided their faith in God is equal 
to their confidence in their own effort. 


1 The sense-objects turn away from an abstemious soul, 
leaving the relish behind. The relish also disappears 
with the realization of the Highest. 1 Therefore His name 
and His grace are the last resources of the aspirant 
after moksha. This truth came to me only after my return 
to India. 


William R. Thurston, according to the publisher's 
preface, was a Major in the United States army, which 
he served for nearly ten years. And, during these 
years, he had varied experiences in several parts of 
the world, including China. During his travels he studied 
the effects of marriage laws and customs, as a result 
of which he felt the call to write a book on marriage. 
This book, Which is called Thurston* Philosophy of Marriage 
and was published last year by the Tiffany Press, 
New York, contains only 32 pages of bold type, and 
can be read inside of an hour. The author has not entered 
into an elaborate argument, but has simply set forth his 
conclusions with just a dash of argument to support his 
conclusions which the publisher truly describes as 
'startling 1 . In his foreword, the author claims to have 
based his conclusions on "personal observation, data 
obtained from physicians, statistics of social hygiene and 
medical statistics 11 , compiled during the war. His conclu- 
sions are: 

1 "That Nature never intended a woman to be bound to a 
man for life, and to be compelled to occupy the same bed or 
habitation with him, night after night, in pregnancy and out, in 
order to earn her board and lodging, and to exercise her natural 
right to bear children 

2. ''That the daily and nightly juxtaposition of the male 
and female, which is a result of present marriage laws and 
customs, leads to unrestrained sexual intercourse, which perverts 
the natural instincts of both male and female, and makes partial 
prostitutes of 90% of all married women. This condition arises 
from the fact that married women have been -led to believe that 
such prostitution of themselves is right and natural because it 
is legal, and that it is necessary in order to retain the affections 
of their husbands " 
The author then goes on to describe the effects of 

'continual unrestrained sexual intercourse', which I 

epitomize as follows : 

*Reprinted from Young India, 27-9-1928. 


(a) "It causes the woman to become highly nervous, prema- 
turely aged, diseased, irritable, restless, discontented, and 
incapable of properly caring for her children 

(b) "Among the poorer classes, it leads to the propagation 
of many children who are not wanted . . 

(c) "Among the higher classes, unrestrained sexual inter- 
course leads to the practice of contraception and abortion " "If 
contraceptive methods, under the name of * birth control ' or any other 
name, ate taught to the majority of the women of the masses, the race will 
become geneiallv diseased, demoralized, depraved, and will eventually 
pensh " (The italics are the author's.) 

(d) "Excessive sexual intercourse drains the male of the 
vitality necessary for earning a good living." "At present thae aie 
approximately 2,000,000 moie widows in the United States than there 
ate widowers Comparatively few of these are war widows " (The italics 
are the author's ) 

(e) "The excessive sexual intercourse incident to the present 
married state develops in the minds of both male and female a 
sense of futility." "The poverty of the woild today and the slums of 
the larger cities are not due to lack of profitable labour to be performed, 
but to excessive, unrestrained sexual intercourse, resulting from present 
marnagc laws" (The italics are the author's.) 

(f) "Most serious of all from the standpoint of the future of 
the human race is sexual intercourse during pregnancy." 

Then follows an indictment of China and India into 
which I need not go. This brings us to half of this 
booklet. The next half is devoted to the remedy. 

The central fact of the remedy is that husband and 
wife must always live in separate rooms, therefore 
necessarily sleep in separate beds, and meet only 
when both desire progeny, but especially the wife. I 
do not intend to give the changes suggested in the 
marriage laws. The one thing common to all marriages 
throughout the world is a common room and a common 
bed, and this the author condemns in unmeasured 
terms, I venture to think, rightly. There is no doubt 
that much of the sensuality of our nature, whether male 
or female, is due to the superstition bearing a religious 
sanction that married people are bound to share the 
same bed and the same room. It has produced a 
mentality, the disastrous effect of which it is difficult for 
us, living in the atmosphere generated by that super- 
stition, properly to estimate. 


The author is equally opposed, as we have already 
seen, to contraceptive methods. 

S. Ganesan, the enterprising publisher of Madras, 
has obtained the permission of the author to reprint 
the booklet for circulation in India. If he does so, the 
reader can possess a copy at a trifling price. He has 
secured also the rights of t' mslation. 

Many of the other remedies suggested by the author 
are, in my opinion, not of practical use to us, and in 
any case require legislative sanction. But every hus- 
band and wife can make a fixed resolution from today 
never to share the same room or the same bed at 
night, and to avoid sexual contact, except for the one 
supreme purpose for which it is intended for both man 
and beast. The beast observes the law invariably. 
Man having got the choice has grievously erred in 
making the wrong choice. Every woman can decline 
to have anything to do with contraception. Both man 
and woman should know that abstention from satisfac- 
tion of the sexual appetite results not in disease but in 
health and vigour, provided that mind cooperates with 
the body. The author believes that the present condi- 
tion of marriage laws ' is responsible for the greater 
part of all the ills of the world today. 1 One need not 
share this sweeping belief with the author to come to 
the two final decisions I have suggested. But there 
can be no doubt that a large part of the miseries of 
today can be avoided, if we look at the relations 
between the sexes in a healthy and pure light, and 
regard ourselves as trustees for the moral welfare of 
the future generations. 


The third among our observances is Brahmacharva. 
As a matter of fact all observances are deducible from 
Truth, and are meant to subserve it. The man, who is 
wedded to Truth and worships Truth alone, proves un- 
faithful to her, if he applies his talents to anything else. 
How then can he minister to the senses? A man, 
whose activities are wholly consecrated to the realiza- 
tion of Truth, which requires utter selflessness, can 
have no time for the selfish purpose of begetting child- 
ren and running a household. Realization of Truth 
through self-gratification should, after what has been 
said before, appear a contradiction of terms. 

If we look at it from the standpoint of ahimsa ( non- 
violence), we find that the fulfilment of ahimsa is im- 
possible without utter selflessness. Ahnn^a means Uni- 
versal Love. If a man gives his love to one woman, or 
a woman to one man, what is there left for all the 
world besides? It simply means, "We two first, and 
the devil take all the rest of them." As a faithful wife 
must be prepared to sacrifice her all for the sake of 
her husband, and a faithful husband for the sake of his 
wife, it is clear that such persons cannot rise to the 
height of Universal Love, or look upon all mankind as 
kith and kin. For they have created a boundary wall 
round their love. The larger their family, the farther 
are they from Universal Love. Hence one who would 
obey the law of ahimsa cannot marry, not to speak of 
gratification outside the marital bond. 

Then what about people who are already married? 
Will they never be able to realize Truth ? Can they 
never offer up their all at the altar of humanity ? 
There is a way out for them. They can behave as if 
they were not married. Those who have enjoyed this 
happy condition will be able to bear me out. Many 
have to my knowledge successfully tried the experiment. 


If the married couple can think of each other as 
brother and sister, they are freed for universal service. 
The very thought that all the women in the world 
are one's sisters, mothers or daughters will at once 
ennoble a man and snap his chains. The husband 
and wife do not lose anything here, but only add to 
their resources and even to their family. Their love 
becomes free from the impurity of lust and so grows 
stronger. With the disappearance of this impurity, they 
can serve each other better, and the occasions for 
quarrel become fewer. There are more occasions for 
quarrel, where the love is selfish and bounded. 

If the foregoing argument is appreciated, a consi- 
deration of the physical benefits of chastity becomes a 
matter of secondary importance. How foolish it is inten- 
tionally to dissipate vital energy in sensual enjoyment! 
It is a grave misuse to fritter away for physical gratifi- 
cation that which is given to man and woman for the 
full development of their bodily and mental powers. 
Such misuse is the root cause of many a disease. 

Brahmacharya, like all other observances, must be 
observed in thought, word and deed. We are told in 
the Gita, and experience will corroborate the state- 
ment, that the foolish man, who appears to control his 
body but is nursing evil thoughts in his mind, makes a 
vain effort. It may be harmful to suppress the body, 
if the mind is at the same time allowed to go astray. 
Where the mind wanders, the body must follow sooner 
or later. 

It is necessary here to appreciate a distinction. It is 
one thing to allow the mind to harbour impure thoughts; 
it is a different thing altogether if it strays among them 
in spite of ourselves. Victory will be ours in the end, 
if we non-cooperate with the mind in its evil wanderings. 

We experience every moment of our lives that often 
while the body Is subject to our control, the mind is 
not This physical control should never be relaxed, and 
in addition we must put forth a constant endeavour to 
bring the mind under control. We can do nothing more, 



nothing less. If we give way to the mind, the body and 
the mind will pull different ways, and we shall be false 
to ourselves. Body and mind may be said to go together, 
so long as we continue to resist the approach of every 
evil thought. 

* The observance of Brahmacharya has been believed 
to be very difficult, almost impossible. In trying to find 
a reason for this belief, we see that the term Brahma- 
charya has been taken in a narrow sense. Mere control 
of animal passion has been thought to be tantamount to 
observing Brahmacharya. I feel that this conception is 
incomplete and wrong. Brahmachayya means control of 
all the organs of sense. He, who attempts to control 
only one organ and allows all the others free play, is 
bound to find his effort futile. To hear suggestive stories 
with the ears, to see suggestive sights with the eyes, to 
taste stimulating food with the tongue, to -touch exciting 
things with the hands, and then at the same time expect 
to control the only remaining organ, is like putting one's 
hands in a fire, and then expecting to escape being burnt. 
He, therefore, who is resolved to control the one must be 
likewise determined to control the rest. I have always 
felt that much harm has been done by the narrow 
definition of Brahmacharya. If we practise simultaneous 
self-control in all directions, the attempt will be scientific 
and possible of success^) Perhaps the palate is the chief 
sinner. That is why in the Ashram we have assigned to 
control of the palate a separate place among our 

Let us remember the root meaning of Brahmacharya. 
Charya means course of conduct; Brahma-charya conduct 
adapted to the search of Brahma, i. e., Truth. From this 
etymological meaning, arises the special meaning, viz., 
control of all the senses. We must entirely forget the 
incomplete definition which restricts itself to the sexual 
aspect only. 

From Yeravda Mandir, Ch. Ill 


A co-worker who is a careful reader of my writings 
was disturbed to read that I was likely to approve of 
the ' safe period f method of birth control. I endeavoured 
to make it clear to the friend that the safe period method 
did not repel me as did the use of contraceptives and 
that it was open largely only to married couples. But 
the discussion of the topic led us into much deeper 
waters than either of us had expected. The fact that my 
friend was repelled by the safe period method as much 
as by that of pontraceptives showed to me that he 
believed in the possibility of ordinary persons practising 
the restraint imposed by the Smntis, i. e. that the union 
between husband and wife was permitted only when 
the parties really desired to have children. Whilst I 
knew the rule, I had never regarded it in the light 
that I began to do at the discussion. All these long 
years I had regarded it as a counsel of perfection not 
to be carried out literally, and had believed that so long 
as married couples carried on intercourse by mutual 
consent but without special regard to the desire for 
progeny, they were carrying out the purpose of marriage 
without breaking any positive injunction of the Smritts. 
But the new light in which I viewed the Smnti text was 
a revelation to me. I understood now as I never had 
done before the statement that married people, who 
strictly observed the injunction of the Smntis, were as 
much Brahmachans as those who were never married 
and lived chaste lives. 

The sole object of sexual intercourse according to 
the new light was the desire for progeny, never grati- 
fication of the sexual instinct. Simple gratification of the 
instinct would be counted according to this view of 
marriage as lust. This may appear to be a harsh expres- 
sion to use for our enjoyment which has hitherto been 
regarded as innocent and legitimate. But I am not dealing 


with custom. I am dealing with the science of marriage 
as propounded by Hindu sages. Their presentation may 
be faulty, it may be altogether wrong. But for one like 
me who believes in several Smnti texts as inspired and 
based on experience, there is no escape from a full 
acceptance of their meaning. I know no other way of 
finding the truth of things and testing certain old texts 
in accordance with their full meaning, no matter how 
hard the test may appear and how harsh its deductions 
may sound. 

In the light of what I have said above, birth control 
by contraceptives and the like is a profound error. I 
write thus with a full sense of my responsibility. I have 
great regard for Mrs. Margaret Sanger and her followers. 
She impressed me much by her great zeal for her cause. 
I know that she has great sympathy for the women who 
suffer because they have to bear the burden of carry- 
ing and rearing unwanted children. I know also that 
this method of birth control has the support of many 
Protestant divines, scientists, learned men and doctors, 
many of whom I have the honour of knowing personally 
and for whom I entertain high regard. But I should be 
false to my God who is Truth and nothing but Truth, if 
I concealed my belief from the reader or these great 
advocates of the method. Indeed, if I hid my belief, I 
should never discover my error if my present belief 
is one. Moreover its declaration is due to those many 
men and women who accept my guidance and advice 
in many moral problems including this one concerning 
birth control. 

That birth requires to be regulated and controlled 
is common cause between me and the advocates of 
contraceptives and the like. The difficulty of control 
through self-restraint is not to be denied. Yet there is 
no other way of attaining the end if mankind is to fulfil 
its destiny. It is my innermost conviction that if the 
method under discussion gains universal acceptance, 
mankind will suffer moral deterioration. This I say in 


spite of the evidence to the contrary that is often pro- 
duced by the advocates of the method. 

I believe I have no superstition in me. Truth is not 
truth merely because it is ancient. Nor is it necessarily 
to be regarded with suspicion because it is ancient. 
There are some fundamentals of life which may not be 
lightly given up because they are difficult of enforcement 
in one's life. 

Birth control through self-control is no doubt difficult. 
But no one has yet been known seriously to dispute its 
efficacy and even superiority over the use of 

Then, I feel that the full acceptance of the implica- 
tion of the injunction of the shastras as to the strictly 
confined use of the sexual act, makes the observance 
of self-control much easier than if one regards the act 
itself as a source of supreme enjoyment. The function 
of the organs of generation is merely to generate 
progeny obviously of the highest type possible for a 
married couple. This can and should only take place 
when both parties desire, not sexual union but progeny, 
which is the result of such union. Desire for such 
union, therefore, without the desire for progeny, must 
be considered unlawful and should be restrained. 

The possibility of such control for the ordinary man 
will be examined in the next issue. 

Hanjan, 14-3-1936 


There is nothing in our society today which would 
conduce to self-control. Our very upbringing is against 
it. The primary concern of parents is to marry their 
children anyhow so that they may breed like rabbits. 
If they are girls, they are married at as early an age 
as they conveniently can be, irrespective of their moral 
welfare. The marriage ceremony is one long-drawn-out 
agony of feasting and frivolity. The householder's life is 
in keeping with the past life. It is a prolongation of 
self-indulgence. Holidays and social enjoyments are so 
arranged as to allow one the greatest latitude for 
sensuous living. The literature that is almost thrust on 
one generally panders to the animal passion. The most 
modern literature almost teaches that indulgence in it is 
a duty and total abstinence a sin. 

Is it any wonder if control of the sexual appetite 
has become difficult if not almost impossible ? If then 
birth control through self-restraint is the most desirable 
and sensible and totally harmless method, we must 
change the social ideal and environment. The only way 
to bring about the desired end is for individuals who 
believe in the method of self-control to make the begin- 
ning themselves and with unquenchable faith to affect 
their surroundings. For them the conception of marriage 
I discussed last week has, it seems to me, the greatest 
significance. A proper grasp of it means a complete 
mental revolution. It is not meant merely for a few select 
individuals. It is presented as the law of the human 
species'. Its breach reduces the status of human beings 
and brings swift punishment in the shape of multiplicity 
of unwanted children, a train of ever-increasing diseases, 
and disruption of man as a moral being responsible to his 
Maker. Birth control by contraceptives no doubt regulates 
to a certain extent the number of new-comers and en- 
ables persons of moderate means to keep the wolf from 


the door. But the moral harm it does to the individual 
and society is incalculable. For one thing, the outlook 
upon life for those who satisfy the sexual appetite 
for the sake of it is wholly changed. Marriage ceases 
to be a sacrament for them) It means a revaluation of 
the social ideals hitherto prized as a precious treasure. 
No doubt this argument will make little appeal to those 
who regard the old ideals about marriage as a supersti- 
tion. My argument is only addressed to those who 
regard marriage as a sacrament and woman not as an 
instrument of animal pleasure but as mother of man 
and trustee of the virtue of her progeny. 

My experience of self-control by fellow-workers 
and myself confirms me in the view presented here. 
It assumes overwhelming force from the discovery in a 
vivid light of the ancient conception of marriage. For 
me Brahmacharya in married life now assumes its natural 
and inevitable position and becomes as simple as the 
fact of marriage itself. Any other method of birth 
control seems useless and unthinkable. Once the idea 
that the only and grand function of the sexual organ is 
generation, possesses man and woman, union for any 
other purpose they will hold as criminal waste of the 
vital fluid and cosequent excitement caused to man and 
woman as an equally criminal waste of precious energ^ 
It is now easy to understand why the scientists of old 
have put such great value upon the vital fluid and why 
they have insisted upon its strong transmutation into 
the highest form of energy for the benefit of society. 
They boldly declare that one who has acquired a per- 
fect control over his or her sexual energy strengthens 
the whole being, physical, mental and spiritual, and 
attains powers unattainable by any other means. 

Let not the reader be disturbed by the absence 
of many or even any living specimens of such 
giant Brahmachans. The Brahmachans we see about 
us today are very incomplete specimens. At best 
they are aspirants who have acquired control over 
their bodies but not their minds. They have not 


become proof against temptation. This is not 
because Brahma:har\a is so difficult of attainment. 
Social environment is against them, and the majority of 
those who are making an honest effort unknowingly 
isolate the control of the animal passion from all other 
passions, whereas the effort to be successful must in- 
clude control over all the passions to which man is 
prey. Whilst Brahmacharya is not impossible of attain- 
ment by the average man and woman, it must not be 
supposed tliat it requires less effort, than that required 
by an average student who has set his heart upon be- 
coming a master of any one of the sciences. Attain- 
ment of Brahmacharya in the sense here meant, means 
mastery of the Science of Life. 

Hanian, 21-3-1936 



A friend writes: 

' I have long since held with you that self-control is the only 
sovereign method for attaining birth-control. That the sexual 
act is meant for procreation only, and apart from it, in any 
shape or form, would amount to unnatural gratification of lust, 
needs no proof. But sometimes this brings one up against a 
grave dilemma. Supposing that the sexual act, once or twice, fails 
to lead to conception, what is one to do then ? Where is one 
to draw the limit ? It is hard finally to give up all hope of be- 
getting offspring. On the other hand, unlimited indulgence in 
the sexual act must result in the man being drained of all 
vitality. Again, should such a person be told to regard his 
failure to beget progeny on the first or the second chance, as 
a mark of adverse fate, and on that score to abstain from hav- 
ing any further intercourse thereafter? But that would require 
an exceptional degree of self-possession and spiritual strength 
on the part of the person concerned. Instances of people be- 
getting progeny in their declining years after repeated failure 
during the years of manhood and youth, are by no means either 
unknown or rare. That makes the observance of complete 
abstinence still more difficult, and the position becomes further 


complicated when the parties happen to be otherwise healthy 
and free from any physical defect." 

I admit the difficulty, but the difficulty is inherent 
in the problem itself. The road to any progress is 
strewn with such difficulty, and the story of man's 
ascent in the scale of evolution is co-extensive with 
the history of the successful overcoming of these diffi- 
culties. Take the story of the attempts to conquer the 
Himalayas. The higher you go the steeper becomes the 
climb, the more difficult the ascent, so much so that its 
highest peak still remains unvanquished. The enterprise 
has already exacted a heavy toll of sacrifice. Yet every 
year sees fresh attempts made only to end in failure 
like their predecessors. All that has, however, failed 
to damp the spirit of the explorers. If that is the case 
with the conquest of the Himalayas, what about the 
conquest of self, which is a harder job by far, even as 
the reward is richer ? The scaling of the Himalayas can, 
at best, give a temporary feeling of elation and triumph. 
But the reward of the conquest of self is a spiritual 
bliss that knows no waning and grows ever more and 
more. It is a well-known maxim of the science of 
Brahmacharya that insemination in the case of a man 
who has properly kept the rules of Brahmacharya can- 
not, ought not to, fail to lead to conception. And this 
is just as it should be. When a man has completely 
conquered his animality, involuntary incontinence be- 
comes impossible, and the desire for sexual gratifica- 
tion for its own sake ceases altogether. Sexual union 
then takes place only when there is a desire for off- 
spring. This is the meaning of what has been described 
as 'Married Brahmacharya'. In other words, a person 
who obeys this rule, though leading a married life, 
attains the same state as and is equal in merit to one 
who completely abstains from the sexual act, which is 
only a means for procreation, never for self-indulgence. 
In practice, it is true, this ideal is seen to be rarely 
realized in its completeness. But in shaping our ideals 
we cannot think in terms of our weaknesses or the 


possible lapses. The present tendency, however, is to 
take a complete swing round, and the protagonists of 
contraceptives have almost set up self-indulgence as 
their ideal. Self-indulgence obviously can never be an 
ideal. There can be no limit to the practice of an 
ideal. But unlimited self-indulgence, as everybody would 
admit, can only result in certain destruction of the 
individual or the race concerned. Hence self-control 
alone can be our ideal, and it has been so regarded 
from the earliest times. Therefore we have to explore 
the means of its attainment, not to circumvent it. 

It has become my settled conviction that most of 
the difficulties that are experienced in connection with 
the practice of Brahmacharya are due to our ignorance 
about its laws and would of themselves disappear if we 
discovered them. Let us, for instance, examine the 
poser propounded by our correspondent in the ideal 
light. In the ideal state, in the first place, such a con- 
tingency will never arise, because in a normally healthy 
couple, who have from their childhood upward ob- 
served the rules of Brahmacharya t sexual union can 
never prove infertile. In practice, however, anomalies 
do arise. The only rule that can be laid down in such 
instances is that the coitus may be permitted once at 
the end of the monthly period till coception is estab- 
lished.* If its object is achieved it must be abjured 
forthwith, for mere sensual gratification should never 
be its object. It is my faith based on my experience 
that bodily and mental health increases in the same 
ratio as bodily and mental chastity. Nor is it to be 
wondered at. A substance that is capable of producing 
such a wonderful being as man cannot but, when pro- 
perly conserved, be transmuted into matchless energy 

* The most illustrious example ofc this in European history is 
perhaps afforded by Ezenobia, the queen of Palmyra, equally re- 
nowned for her beauty and valour, about whom Gibbon has ob- 
served: "She never admitted her husband's embraces but for the 
sake of posterity. If her hopes were baffled, in the ensuing month 
she reiterated the experiment." Pyarelal 


and strength. Anyone can test for himself the truth of 
this observation of the shastras for himself by personal 
experience. And the rule holds good in respect of 
woman no less than man. The real difficulty, however, 
Is that we vainly expect to be free from outward ni- 
festations of lust, while harbouring it in our minds, with 
the result that physically and mentally we become utter 
wrecks, and our lives, in the words of the Gita* become 
a living lie or hypocrisy personified. 

Hanjan 20-3 1937. 


A Bangalore correspondent asks: 

" You say that a married couple may have sexual union 
only when there is a mutual desire for a child and on no other 
account. Please let me know why one should wish for a child 
at all. Many people wish for children without fully realizing 
the responsibilities of parenthood, and many more wish for 
children fully knowing that they are incapable of discharging 
the responsibilies of a parent. Many persons who are physically 
and mentally unfit for parenthood wish for children. Don't you 
think that it is wrong for these persons to procreate? 

I should like to know the motive behind the desire for 
children. Many people- wish for children to bequeath their 
possessions and to break the monotony of their life. A few 
people wish for a male child lest the gates of Heaven would 
not be opened for them. Are not these people wrong in wish- 
ing for a child ? " 

It is good to seek causes for things. But it is not 
always possible to discover them. The desire for child- 
ren is universal. But I do not know any convincing 
cause, if to see oneself perpetuated through one's des- 
cendants is not a sufficient and convincing cause. My 
proposition, however, is not vitiated if the cause I give 
for the desire is not found sufficiently convincing. The 
desire is there. It seems to be natural. I am not 
sorry for having been born. It cannot be unlawful for 


me to see the best in me reproduced. Any way, till I 
see evil in procreation itself and till I see that the 
sexual act for mere pleasure is justifiable, I must hold 
thaU the sexual act is justified only where there is 
de*e for children. I understand that this was so clear 
to the makers of the Smntis that Manu described only 
the first-born as children born of dharma and the rest 
of kama lust. The more thought I give to the subject 
as dispassionately as is possible, the more convinced I 
feel about the correctness of the position I have taken 
and am enforcing. It is becoming clearer to me that 
the difficulty lies in our ignorance of the subject with 
which needless secrecy is being associated. Our 
thought is clouded. We dread to face consequences. 
We resort to half-measures as if they were perfect or 
final and thus render them most difficult of execution. 
If our thoughts were clear, if we became sure of our 
ground, our speech and action would be firm. 

Thus, if I am sure that every morsel of food I take 
is for building and sustaining the body, I shall never 
desire to take food for the pleasure of the palate. I shall 
further realize that if I have any desire to eat things 
because they are tasty, and apart from hunger or the 
thought of sustaining the body, it is a token of disease 
and I should seek to cure myself of it and not satisfy it 
as if it was lawful or healthy. Even so if I am quite clear 
that the sexual act, apart from the unquestioned desire 
from progeny, is unlawful and detrimental to the body, 
mind and soul, surely resistance to the desire will 
become easy far easier, than when I am not clear 
whether the gratification of mere desire is or is not 
lawful and beneficial. If I am quite clear about the un- 
lawfulness of the desire, I shall treat it as if it were a 
disease and repel its attacks with all my vigour. I shall 
feel the stronger for the resistance. They are wrong, 
even untruthful, who claim that they do not like the act 
but are helpless and therefore resistance leaves them 
weak and defeated. If all such people were to examine 
themselves, they would discover that their thoughts 


deceive them. Their thoughts cherish the desire, and 
their speech is a false interpreter of their thoughts. If 
on the other hand the speech is a true interpreter of 
the thoughts, there can be no such thing as weakness. 
Defeat there may be. Weakness never. 

The correspondent's objection to procreation by 
unhealthy parents is perfectly valid. They can have or 
should have no desire for progeny. They are deceiving 
themselves and the world if they say that they perform 
the sexual act for progeny. In an examination of any 
subject truthfulness is always assumed. Desire for 
progeny must not be feigned in order to cover the 
pleasure of sexual union. 

Harijan, 24-1-1937 


A correspondent writes : 

"I would like to say a few words on the report of the inter- 
view between Mrs. Sanger and Mahatma Gandhi that appeared 
recently in the Harijan. 

"The cardinal fact that I see missed in the interview is that 
it has not been taken into consideration that man is above all 
an artist and a creator. He is not satisfied with bare necessity, 
but must have beauty, colour and charm as well If ye have one 
pice only, buy bread of it, if two, one worth of bread and worth 
of flower, 1 said Prophet Muhammad. In it is embodied a great 
psychological truth the truth that man is by nature an artist. 
That is why we find him engaged in making his raiment some- 
thing more than the mere necessity of sustaining his body. He 
has made every necessity into an art and has spent tons of blood 
on them. His creative instinct impels him to add to his difficul- 
ties and problems and solve them over again. Ho cannot be 
' simple ' as Rousseau, Ruskin, Tolstoy, Thoreau and Gandhiji 
would like him to be. War he must have as its necessary corol- 
lary which also he has transformed into a great art. 

To appeal to him the example of nature would be in vain, 
for it is totally incompatible with his very being. ' Nature ' cannot 
be his teacher. Those who appeal to it overlook that it does not 


only consist of hills and dales and flower-beds, but flood, cyclone 
and earthquake as well. ' From an artistic standpoint', says 
Nietzsche the iconoclast, "Nature is no model. It exaggerates, 
distorts and leaves gaps. Nature is the accident. To study from 
nature ' seems to me a bad sign; thus lying in the dust before 
trivial facts is unworthy of a thorough artist. To see what is the 
function of another order of intellects, the anti-artistic, the 
matter-of-fact, one must know who one is I ' We know that the 
wild beasts eat raw flesh out of the need of sustaining their 
bodies and not out of taste. We also know of the rutting season 
of nature outside which none meets sexually there. But it is, to 
quote our philosopher again, unworthy of a thorough artist ' that 
man by nature is. To end sexual life when the need of propaga- 
tion is no longer there, or to enjoin sex-communion expressly 
with the desire of begetting offspring, is too calculating, too 
natural, too matter-of-fact * as our philosopher just now said, 
to appeal to his strong artistic taste. Hence he has got quite 
another aspect of sexual love which is independent of the desire 
to multiply as has been revealed by such authorities as Havelock 
Ellis and Marie Stopes, but which, though originating in the soul, 
is nevertheless incomplete without the bodily union, so long as 
we do not get the soul all by itself, but through tne instrument 
of the body. To cope with the effect of such a union is altogether 
a different problem, and herein is the task of the birth control 
movement. But if the task be shifted to a rearrangement of the 
soul itself for ' self-control ' is nothing different from this by 
external discipline, we are not sanguine that it would prove all 
the purposes that are expected of it. Nor would the movement 
of control over birth without a firm psychological basis. 

I would close with a further remark that by this I do not 
mean to underrate the value of the discipline of self-control or 
what is technically known as brahmacharya. I would always 
admire it as the art of the control of the sex instinct carried to 
perfection. But just as the perfection of ether arts does not inter* 
fere with the science of life, with the whole life ( in the Nietzschean 
sense of the term), with the proper scheme of ail the values of 
life, so also I will not allow the value of the ideal of brahma- 
charya dominate other values, far less use it as an instrument of 
solving problems, such as overpopulation. We have made such 
a hobgoblin of iti We have heard of the 'war-babies '. Should 
we refuse giving credit to those soldiers who brought victory 
for their countrymen by their blood because they happened to 
give birth fo those war-babies ? Nobody would. I believe it was 
with an eye to such a scheme of values that the scriptures 

(STfftqlSferaO said, ' SSH^fa 3% ^ raft W &p& ' , 
or there is brahmacharya where sexual union occurs only at 


night ( i. e. as opposed to abnormal cohabitation during the day- 
time). Here normal sex life itself is spoken of as faahmacharya, 
the rigid conception of which began after we had already 
topsy-turvied the proper scheme of all the values of life " 

I gladly publish this letter as I should any such letter 
that is not full of declamation, abuse or insinuations. The 
reader should have both the sides of the question to 
enable him to come to a decision. I am myself eager 
to know why a thing which is claimed to be scientific 
and beneficial and which has many distinguished support- 
ers repels me notwithstanding my effort to see the 
bright side of it, 

Thus it is not proved to my satisfaction that sexual 
union in marriage is in itself good and beneficial to the 
unionists. To the contrary effect I can bear ample testi- 
mony from my own experience and that of many friends. 
I am not aware of any of us having derived any benefit, 
mental, spiritual or physical. Momentary excitement and 
satisfaction there certainly was. But it was invariably 
followed by exhaustion. And the desire for union 
returned immediately the effect of exhaustion had worn 
out. Although I have always been a conscientious worker, 
I can clearly recall the fact that this indulgence inter- 
fered with my work. It was the consciousness of this 
limitation that put me on the track of self-restraint; and 
I have no manner of doubt that the self-restraint is res- 
ponsible for the comparative freedom from illnesses 
that I have enjoyed for long periods and for my output 
of energy and work both physical and mental which 
eye-witnesses have described as phenomenal. 

I fear that the correspondent has misapplied his 
reading. Man is undoubtedly an artist and creator. 
Undoubtedly he must have beauty and therefore colour. 
His artistic and creative nature at its best taught him to 
see art in self-restraint and ugliness in un-creative union. 
His instinct for the artistic taught him to discriminate 
and to know that any conglomeration of colours was no 
mark of beauty, nor every sense enjoyment good in 
itself. His eye for art taught man to seek enjoyment in 


usefulness. Thus he learnt at an early stage of his evolu- 
tion that he was to eat not for its own sake as some of 
us still do, but that he should eat to enable him to live. 
At a later stage he learnt further that there was neither 
beauty nor joy in living for its own sake, but that he 
must live to serve his fellow-creatures and through them 
his Maker. Similarly, when he pondered over the 
phenomenon of the pleasurableness of sexual union, he 
discovered that, like every other organ of sense, this 
one of generation had its use and abuse. And he 
saw that its true function, its right use was to restrict it 
to generation. Any other use he saw, was ugly, and he 
saw further that it was fraught with very serious con- 
sequences as well to the individual as to the race. It 
is hardly necessary for me to prolong the argument. 

The correspondent says well that man makes art 
out of his necessities. Necessity is not only the mother 
of invention, it is the mother also of art. We should 
therefore beware of that art which has not necessity as 
its basis. 

Nor may we dignify every want by the name of 
necessity. Man's estate is one of probation. During 
that period he is played upon by evil forces as well as 
good. He is ever prey to temptations. He has to 
prove his manliness by resisting and fighting temptations. 
He is no warrior who fights outside foes of his imagi- 
nation and is powerless to lift his little finger against 
the innumerable foes within or, what is worse, mistakes 
them for friends. "War he must have ". But the cor- 
respondent is wrong when he says that ' as its neces- 
sary corollary he has transformed it into a great art. 11 
He has hardly yet learnt the art of war. He has mis- 
taken false war for true, even as our forefathers, under 
a mistaken view of sacrifice, instead of sacrificing their 
base passions, sacrificed innocent non-human fellow 
creatures as many do even at the present day. We 
have yet to learn the art of true war. Surely there is 
neither beauty nor art in what is going on today on the 


Abyssinian frontier. The correspondent has chosen un- 
happy (for him) names for his illustrations. Rousseau, 
Ruskin, Thoreau and Tolstoy were first-class artists of 
their time. They will live even after many of us are 
dead, cremated and forgotten. 

The correspondent seems to have misapplied the 
word nature. When an appeal to man is made to copy 
or study nature, he is not invited to follow what the 
reptiles do or even what the king of the forest does. 
He has to study man's nature at its best, i,e. I presume 
his regenerate nature, whatever it may be. Perhaps it 
requires considerable effort to know what regenerate 
nature is. It is dangerous nowadays to refer to old 
teachers. I suggest to the correspondent that it is un- 
necessary to bring in Nietzsche or even Pra^hnopam- 
shad. The question for me is past the stage of quota- 
tions. What has cold reason to say on the point under 
discussion? Is it or is it not correct to say that the 
only right use of the generative organ is to confine it 
solely to generation and that any other use is its abuse ? 
If it is, no difficulty in achieving the right use and 
avoiding the wrong should baffle the scientific seeker. 

Harnan, 4-4-1936 


From a serious discussion I had with a sister I fear 
that my position on the use of contraceptives has not 
yet been sufficiently understood. My opposition is not due 
to their having come to us from the West. I thankfully 
use some western things when I know that they benefit 
us as they benefit those in the West. My opposition to 
contraceptives is based on merits. 

I take it that the wisest among the protagonists of 
contraceptives restrict their use to married women who 
desire to satisfy their and their husbands 1 sexual appe- 
tite without wanting children. I hold this desire as unnatural 
in the human species and its satisfaction detrimental to 
the spiritual progress of the human family. As against 
this is often cited the following testimony among others 
of Lord Dawson of Penn : 

" Sex love is one of the clamant, dominating forces of the 
world. Here we have an instinct, so fundamental, so imperious 
that its influence is a fact which has to be accepted . suppress 
it you cannot, You may guide it into healthy channels, but an 
outlet it will have, and if that outlet is inadequate or unduly 
obstructed, irregular channels will be forced. Self-control has a 
breaking point, and if in any community marriage is difficult or 
late of attainment, an increase of irregular unions will inevitably 
result All are agreed that union of body should be in association 
with union of mind and soul, all are agreed that the rearing of 
children is a pre-eminent purpose. Has not sexual union 
over and over again been the physical expression of our love 
without thought or intention of procreation ? Have we all been 
wrong ? Or is it that the Church lacks that vital contact with the 
realities of life which accounts for the gulf between her and the 
people? Authority, and I include under authority the churches, 
will never gam the allegiance of the young unless their attitude 
is more frank, more courageous, and more in accordance with 

Sex love has, apart trom parenthood, a purport of its own 
It is an essential part of health and happiness in marriage. If 
sexual union is a gift from God, it is woith learning how to use 
it. Within its own sphere it should be cultivated so as to bring 
physical satisfaction to both, not merely to one The attainment 
of mutual and reciprocal joy :n their relations constitutes a firm 


bond between two people and make for durability of their 
marriage tie. More marriages fail from inadequate and clumsy 
sex love than from too much sex love. Passion is a worthy 
possession; most men who are any good are capable of passion. 
Sex love without passion is a poor lifeless thing. Sensuality en 
the other hand is on a level with gluttony, a physical excess. 
Now that the revision of the Prayer Book is receiving consi- 
deration. I should like to suggest, with great respect, that an 
addition be made to the objects of marriage in the Marriage 
Service in these terms : ' The complete realization of the love 
of this man and this woman, the one for the other.' 

I will pass on to consider the all-important question of 
birth control Birth control is here to stay. It is an established 
fact, and for good or evil has to be accepted, No denuncia- 
tions will abolish it. The reasons which lead parents to limit 
their offspring are sometimes selfish, but more often honourable 
and cogent. The desire to marry and to rear children well- 
equipped for life's struggle, limited incomes, the cost of living, 
burdensome taxation, are forcible motives, and, further, amongst 
the educated classes there is the desire ot women to take part 
in life and their husbands' careers, which is incompatible with 
olt-recurring pregnancies. Absence of birth control means late 
marriages, and these carry with them irregular unions and all 
the baneful consequences. It is idle to decry illicit intercourse 
and interpose obstacles to marriage at one and the same time. 
But say many, ' Birth control may be necessary, but the only 
control which is justifiable is voluntary abstention. ' Such absten- 
tion would be either ineffective or, if effective, impracticable 
and harmful to health and happiness. To limit the size of a 
family to, say, lour children, would be to impose on a married 
couple an amount of abstention which for long periods would 
almost be equivalent to celibacy, and v/hen one remembers that 
owing to economic reasons the abstention would have to be 
most strict during the earlier years of marriage life when desires 
are strongest, I maintain a demand is being made which, for the 
mass of people, It is impossible to meet, that the endeavours 
to meet it would impose a strain hostile to health and happiness 
and carry witn them grave dangers to morals The thing is 
preposterous. You might as well put v/ater by the side of a man 
suffering from thirst and tell him not to drink it. No, birth con- 
trol by abstention is either ineffective, cr, if erfcctive, is 

It is said to be unnatural and intrinsically immoral Civiliza- 
tion involves the chaining nf natural forces and their conversion 
to man's w*ll and uses. Wnen anaesthetics v/ere first used at 
child oirth there was an outcry that their use was unnatural 


and wicked, because God meant woman to suffer. It is no more 

unnatural to control child-birth by artificial means. The use of 

birth control is good, its abuse bad. May 1 end by an appeal 

that the Church approach this question, in common with certain 

others, in the light of modern knowledge and the needs of a 

t new world, and unhampered by traditions which have outworn 

* their usefulness? " 

Lord Dawson's eminence is not to be denied. But 
with all due respect to his greatness as a physician, I 
am tempted to question the value of his evidence, 
specially when it is pitted against the experience of 
men and women who have lived a life of continence 
without suffering any moral or physical harm. Physi- 
cians generally come across those who have so defied 
laws of health that they have contracted some illness. 
They, therefore, often successfully prescribe what suffer- 
ers should do to become well, but they cannot always 
know what healthy men and women can do in any 
particular direction. Lord Dawson's evidence, there- 
fore, about the effect of continence on married people 
has to be taken with the greatest caution. Mo doubt 
the tendency among married people is to rec ard sex- 
ual satisfaction for itself as legitimate. But in the 
modern ,age in which nothing is taken for gran-ed and 
everything is rightly scrutinized, it is surely wrong to 
take it for granted that, because we have hit! erto in- 
dulged in the sexual appetite in married life, the prac- 
tice is either legitimate or healthy. Many old practices 
have been discontinued with good results. Why should 
this particular practice be exempt from examination, 
especially in the light of the experience of those who, 
even as married men and jvomen, are living a life of 
restraint with mutual benefit both physical and moral? 
But I object to contraceptives also on special grounds 
in India. Young men in India do not know what sex- 
ual restraint is. It is not their fault. They are married 
early. It is the custom. Nobody tells them to exercise 
restraint in married life. Parents are impatie/ii to see 
grandchildren. The poor girl wives are expected by 
their surroundings to bear children as fast as they can. 


In such surroundings, the use of contraceptives can only 
further aggravate the mischief. The poor girls who 
are expected to submit to their husbands 1 desires are 
now to be taught that it is a good thing to desire sex- 
ual satisfaction without the desire to have children. 
And in order to fulfil the double purpose they are to 
have recourse to contraceptives ! ! ! ) 

I regard this to be the most pernicious education 
for married women. I do not believe that woman is 
prey to sexual desire to the same extent as man. It 
is easier for her than for man to exercise self-restraint. 
I hold that the right education in this country is to 
teach woman the art of saying no even to her husband, 
to teach her that it is no part of her duty to become a 
mere tool or a doll in her husband's hands. She has 
rights as well as duties. Those who see in Sita a will- 
ing slave under Rama do not realize the loftiness of 
either her independence or Rama's consideration for 
her in everything. Sita was no helpless weak woman 
incapable of protecting herself or her honour. To ask 
India's women to take to contraceptives is, to say the 
least, putting the cart before the horse. The first thing 
is to free her from mental slavery, to teach her sac- 
redness of her body, and to teach her dignity of 
national service and the service of humanity. It is not 
fair to assume that India's women are beyond redemp- 
tion, and that they have therefore to be simply taught 
the use of contraceptives for the sake of preventing 
births and preserving such health as they may be in 
possession of. 

Let not the sisters who are rightly indignant over 
the miseries of women who are called upon to bear 
children, whether they will or no, be impatient. Not 
even the propaganda in favour of contraceptives is go- 
ing to promote the desired end overnight. Every 
method is a matter of education. My plea is for the 
right type. 

Hanian, 2-5-1936. 


"Your recent articles on self-control have created quite a 
stir. Persons who are in sympathy with your views find it diffi- 
cult to exercise self-control for any length of time. They argue 
that you are applying your own experience and practice to the 
whole mankind. And even you have admitted that .you do not 
fulfil the definition of a complete Brahmachan. For you yourself 
are not free from animal passion. And since you admit the 
necessity of limiting the number of children a married 
couple may have, the use of contraceptives is the only practical 
method open to the vast majority of mankind. " 

Thus writes a correspondent. 

I have admitted my own limitations. In this matter 
of self-control v. contraceptives, they constitute my 
qualifications. For my limitations show quite clearly that 
I am like the majority of earth earthy and can have no 
pretensions to any extraordinary gifts. The motive for 
my self-control yras also quite ordinary, viz. the desire 
to limit the progeny for the purpose of serving the 
country or humanity. Inability to support a large family 
should be a greater incentive than the very distant one 
of serving one's country or humanity. That in spite of 
thirtyfive years of successful (from the present stand- 
point ) self-control, the animal in me still needs watching, 
shows in an eminent degree that I am very much an 
ordinary mortal. I therefore do suggest that what has 
been possible for me is possible for any human being 
who would make the required effort. 

My quarrel with the advocates of contraceptives lies 
in their taking it for granted that ordinary mortals cannot 
exercise self-control. Some of them even go so far as 
to say that even if they can, they ought not to do so. 
To them, no matter how eminent they may be in their 
own spheres, I say, in all humility but with utmost con- 
fidence, that they are talking without experience of the 
possibilities of self-control. They have no right to limit 
the capacity of the human soul. In such instances the 
positive evidence of one person like me, if it is reliable, 


is not only of greater value but decisive. To dismiss 
my evidence as useless because I am popularly regarded 
as a ' Mahatma ', is not proper in a serious inquiry. 

Far more weighty is the argument of a sister who 
says in effect: "We, the advocates of contraceptives, 
have come on the scene only recently. You self-control- 
lers had the field all to yourselves all these long 
generations, maybe thousands of years. What have 
you to show to your credit ? Has the world learnt the 
lesson of self-control ? What have you done to stop the 
misery of overburdened families ? Have you heard the 
cry of wounded motherhood ? Come, the field is even 
now open to you. We do not mind your advocacy of 
self-control. We may even wish you success, if perchance 
you save wives frdm the unwanted approaches of their 
husbands. But why should you seek to decry the methods 
which We employ, and which take note of, and make 
every allowance for common human ^weaknesses or 
habits, and which when properly employed almost 
never fail to accomplish their purpose?" 

The taunt is dictated by the anguish of a sister 
filled with compassion for the families that are always 
in want because of the ever-increasing number of 
children. The appeal of human misery has been known 
to melt hearts of stone. How can it fail to effect high- 
souled sisters ? But such appeals may easily lead one 
astray, if one is lifted off one's feet and, like a drown- 
ing man, catches any floating straw. 

We are living in times when values are undergoing 
quick changes. We are not satisfied with slow results. 
We are not satisfied with the welfare merely of our 
own caste-fellows, not even of our own country. We 
feel or want to feel for the whole of humanity. All this 
is a tremendous gain in humanity's march towards 
its goal. 

But we won't find the remedy for human ills by 
losing patience and by rejecting everything that is old 
because it is old. Our ancestors also dreamt, perhaps 
vaguely, the same dreams that fire us with zeal. The 


remedies they applied for similar ills, it is possible, are 
applicable even to the horizon that appears to have 
widened beyond expectations. 

And my plea based on positive experience is that 
even as truth and ahimsa are not merely for the chosen 
few but for the whole of humanity to be practised in 
daily life, so exactly is self-control not merely for a 
few Mahatmas ' but for the whole of humanity. And 
even as, because many people will be untruthful and 
violent, humanity may not lower its standard, so also, 
though many, even the majority, may not respond to the 
message of self control, we may not lower our standard. 

A wise judge will not give a wrong decision in the 
face of a hard case. He will allow himself to appear 
to have hardened his heart because he knows that 
truest mercy lies in not making bad law. 

We may not attribute the weaknesses of the perish- 
able body or the flesh to the imperishable soul that 
resides in it. We have to regulate the body in the 
light of the laws that govern the soul. In my humble 
opinion, these laws are few and unchangeable, capable 
of being understood and followed by the whole of the 
human family. There would be differences of degree 
but not of kind in their application. If we have faith, 
we won f t lose it, because it may take a million years 
before humanity realizes or makes the nearest or visi- 
ble approach to its goal. In Jawaharlal's language, 1st 
us have the correct ideology. 

The sister's challenge, however, remains to be 
answered. The 'self-controllers 41 are not idle. They 
are carrying on their propaganda. If their method is 
different in kind from the method of contraceptives, so 
is and must be their propaganda. ' Self-controllers f do 
not need clinics. They cannot advertize their cure for 
the simple reason that it is not an article to be sold or 
given. But their criticism of contraceptives and warn- 
ng to the people against their use is part of their pro- 
paganda. The constructive side has always been there, 
but naturally in an unfelt and unseen manner. Advocacy 


of self-control has never been suspended. The most 
effective is that of example. The larger the number 
of honest persons who practise successful self-control, 
the more effective becomes the propaganda. 

Hanjan. 30-5-1936 



The following letter has been lying on my file for 
a considerable time : 

' ' The craze fo? birth control is today sweeping all over the 
world, and India is no exception. I have been closely following 
your articles in support of self-conrol in which I believe. Recently 
a ' Birth Control League ' has been started in Ahmedabad. It 
advocates the use of modern contraceptive appliances to enable 
men and women to practise unlimited self-indulgence with 

It seems to me strange that good people who have them- 
selves attained the afternoon of their life should favour a move- 
ment which must result in the vitality of the whole race being 
drained. How one wishes that instead of a ' Birth Control League ' 
these friends had set up a ' Self-Control League ' for realizing 
their goal. I would ask you when you visit Gujarat, to take up 
this matter and show the light to the women of Gujarat. 

Our doctors and vaidyas today seem to fight shy of taktng 
their stand on self-control for fear of losing their bread. They 
do not seem to realize that if the new-fangled craze is left to 
pursue its course unchecked it will inevitably lead society into 
the abyss of self-destruction Only a timely adoption of the 
sovereign remedy of self-control can save it from a certain doom. 
A wide-spread use of contraceptives will and can only result in 
plunging the country into an orgy of self-indulgence and abuse, 
with the inevitable consequences of endless disease and misery." 

I did not get any chance, during my recent briet 
visit to Ahmedabad, to take up the suggestion of this 
friend. But it is well-known that I hold strongly to the 
views attributed to me. Wherever contraceptive practices 
have taken root they have let loose a host of evils which 
even he who runs can see. But birth control enthusiasts 


fail to recognize this fact because they hold indulgence 
to be in itself good and have persuaded themselves 
that the spread of the birth control methods is morally 
desirable. 3 

I am afraid my correspondent has been led into 
exaggeration when he says that the Ahmedabad League 
advocates the use of modern contraceptive appliances 
to enable men and women to practise unlimited self-in- 
dulgence with impunity. But whatever the good motives 
of the promoters of the said League might be, their 
activity can only result in an aggravation of the evil of 
self-indulgence. For, as sure as water runs downhill, 
the use of contraceptives must result in the downhill 
path of self-indulgence. 

Similarly, my correspondent also seems to have done 
an injustice to the doctors and raidyas when he ascribes 
their failure to inculcate self-control purely to a fear 
of losing their bread. The fact is that the medical pro- 
fession have so far regarded the subject of self-control 
as being outside their, purview. But there are gathering 
signs of a coming healthy change in their outlook. The 
goal that the medical science has set before itself is the 
discovery of the cause and cure of disease. An honest 
pursuit of that goal is bound at last to bring it up against 
self-indulgence and lack of self-discipline as the prime 
cause of many diseases. For, with the advance of know- 
ledge and insight, society is bound to insist more and 
more on prevention of disease by the removal of the 
root causes, rather than its cure alone. Complete eradi- 
cation ot disease is an utt^r impossibility unless the 
people learn to observe the elementary rule of 
self-discipline. The fact is so obvious that its recognition 
cannot be long delayed, and with its recognition will 
come greater emphasis on the part of the medical pro- 
fession on self-discipline and self-control as a factor in 
a healthful existence. The Birth Control League of 
Ahmedabad should understand that spread of contracep- 
tive knowledge and practice can only aid the growth of 
self-indulgence and abuse and its inevitable concomitants, 


misery and disease. I would therefore earnestly 
suggest to the promoters of the, said League that if 
they will only utilize tKeir time and energy to study 
deeply the evils of self-indulgence and inculcate upon 
the women the necessity and naturalness of practising 
self-control as a means of attaining birth control, they 
will find that they have discovered the best and quickest 
method of realizing their goal. 

n, 12-12-1936 



The recent debate between Dr. Sokhey and Dr. 
Mangaldas Mehta on the. evergreen topic, of birth control 
emboldens me to disclose the opinion of the late Dr. 
Ansari of revered memory supporting Dr. Mangaldas 1 s 
position. It was now nearly a year ago, I wrote to the 
deceased asking him whether as a medical man, he 
could endorse the position I had taken up on the vexed 
question. Much to my agreeable surprise he wrote 
heartily supporting it. When I was in Delhi last, I had 
a brief discussion with him on the subject, and he 
promised at my request to contribute a series of articles 
shewing by facts and figures from his own experience 
and that of other medical men, how the practice had 
hurt both men ajid women who were party to it. He 
gave a graphic account of the condition to which the 
men were reduced after they had mated for some time 
with their wives or other women who, they knew, were 
using contraceptives. Freedom from the fear of the 
natural consequence of condition had made them reckless 
in self-indulgence leading to an inordinate craving for 
seeing women which ended in dementia. Alas ! he died 
just when he was about to write the promised series. 

Bernard Shaw is reported to have said that coition 
accompanied by the case of contraceptives was nothing 


less than sexual masturbation. A moment's reflection 
would show how accurate the description is. 

I receive almost daily piteous letters from students 
and sometimes even from teachers complaining how 
they had become slaves to the habit and were being 
gradually reduced to loss of manhood. Recall, too, the 
correspondence published in these columns from the 
Principal of the Sanatan Dharma College, Lahore,* bitterly 
complaining of teachers practising unnatural vice on 
their pupils and the consequences of the practices on 
their health and character. The deduction I draw from 
these examples is that even the union between husband 
and wife bereft of the possibility of its natural consequence 
must cause the same ruination that invariably attends 
masturbation or unnatural vice. 

It is the philanthropic motive that no doubt impels 
many birth control reformers to a whirlwind campaign 
in favour of the use of contraceptives. I invite them to 
contemplate the ruinous consequences of their misplaced 
philanthropy. Those whom they want to reach will never 
use them in any appreciable numbers. Those who ought 
not to use them will, without doubt, use them to the 
undoing of themselves and their partners. This would 
not matter in the least, if the use of contraceptives was 
incontestably proved to be right physically and morally. 
Dr. Ansari's opinion, if my testimony about it is accepted, 
is a grave warning to the reformers and would-be 

Hanjan, 12-9-1936 

* See Chapters" XXX and XXXI of this book. 


Miss Mabel E. Simpson of Montana ( U. S. A. ) writes 
to the Editor : 

" I wish to express my appreciation of your publication. 
What it lacks in size it rrore than makes up in quality I greatly 
enjoyed Mr. Gandhi's article on biith control displaying his 
usual clear sight into the heart of things. If he had visited 
America twenty years ac/o when birth control was disapproved 
and now when it is in full swing, he would know that it brings 
moral deterioration. But he would not be able to convince any- 
body of it. for it also brings a blindness to both moral and 
spiritual perception that makes it impossible for its followers 
to discern with sensitivity along high moral and spiritual lines. 
If India follows the West in this, she will surely lose two of her 
most priceless and beautiful jewels : affection for little children 
and reverence for parenthood. America has lost both and does 
not know it. Could you print a statement of the meanirg of 
brahmacharya ? I have been asked about it, and while I have 
an idea I am not sure enough to attempt to explain it to others 
Thank you " 

The reader may place what value he or she chooses 
on this piece of evidence. I suggest, however, that such 
evidence against the use of contraceptives is worth far 
more than that of those who claim to derive benefit from 
their use. The reason is obvious. The benefit in the 
sense that advent of children Is often checked is not 
denied. What is contended is that the moral harm the 
use does is incalculable. Miss Simpson has given us a 
measure of such harm. 

Now for the definition the meaning --of brahma- 
chaiya. Its root meaning may be given thus : that conduct 
which puts one in touch with God. 

The conduct consists in the fullest control over all 
the senses. This is the true and relevant meaning of the 

Popularly it has come to mean mere physical control 
over the organ of generation. This narrow meaning has 
debased brahmacharya and made its practice all but 
impossible. Control over the orgon of generation is 


impossible without proper control over all the senses. 
They are all interdependent. Mind on the lower plane 
is included in the senses. Without control over the mind 
mere physical control, even if it can be attained for a 
time, is of little or no use. 

Hanjan, 13-6-1936 

27 ' 

11 Just lately I read a review of your conference with Mrs. 
Sanger, the birth control advocate. I was so deeply moved that 
I am writing you to express my appreciation for your stand. God 
bless you for your courage. 

For the past thirty years I have been teaching boys. I have 
always advocated the control of the body, and urged boys to 
live unselfishly. 

When Mrs. Sanger was in my neighbourhood, the high 
school boys and girls took advantage of the information to 
carry on their illicit intercourse with no fear of results. Should 
Mrs. Sanger have her way, the time would come when the whole 
world would seek the sensual and love would die. I realize it 
will take centuries to educate the public to higher ideals, but 
there is no time like the present to begin. I fear she mistakes 
passion for love, for love is of the spirit and never born of lust. 

Dr. Alexis Carrel agrees with you, in that sex control is not 
harmful except to those who feed their passions and are already 
unbalanced. Mrs. Sanger is wrong in saying that most doctors 
believe abstinence is harmful. I find many leading doctors and 
scientists belonging tc the American Social Hygiene Association 
hold that control is beneficial. 

You are doing a noble work. I have followed with interest 
all the vicissitudes of your long life struggle. You are one of 
the few who have this higher spiritual viewpoint on the sex 
question. I want you to know I reach out to you across the 
great waters in fellowship. 

Let us keep up the good work so that youth may know the 
truth, for the hope of the future is in their hands. 

I add a quotation from one of my talks to boys : 

1 Create always create. To creats is noble, uplifting, 
inspiring. But the moment you seek to gratify the senses by 
merely enjoying the creative powers, you begin to cheat creation 
and to destroy all those higher spiritual forces within you. It 
can end only in disappointment. 


1 Creation, physical, mental and spiritual, is joy and life. If 
you are merely seeking the sensations of the flesh with no 
thought of creating, or even trying to avoid the aim of creation, 
you are perverting nature and killing your spiritual powers 

* The result will be passion, uncontrolled, exhaustion, 
disappointment and defeat. It can never bring out those finer 
qualities on which we can build a new race of spiritual men 
and women. ' 

1 know this is like a prophet crying in the wilderness, but 
I am convinced of the truth of it, and I can but point the way." 

This is one of the letters which I occasionally get 
from America in condemnation of the use of contracep- 
tives. Current literature that India imports weekly from 
the Far West would have us believe that in America 
none but idiots and imbeciles oppose the use of this 
modern method of deliverance from the bondage of the 
superstition which imprisons the body and crushes it by 
denying it its supreme enjoyment. That literature produces 
as much momentary intoxication as the act which it 
teaches and incites us to perform without incurring the 
risk of its ordinary result. I do not put before the readers 
of Hanjan merely letters of individual condemnation 
received from the West. They have their use for me 
as a seeker but very little for the general reader. This 
letter, however, from a teacher of boys with thirty years' 
experience behind him has a definite value. It should 
serve as a guide for Indian teachers and the public 
men and women who are carried away by the over- 
whelming tide. The use of contraceptives is infinitely 
more tempting than the whisky bottle. But it is no more 
lawful than the sparkling liquid for its fatal temptation. 
Nor can opposition to the use of either be given up in 
despair because their use seems to be growing. If 
the opponents have faith in their mission, it has to be 
pursued. A voice in the wilderness has a potency 
which voices uttered in the midst of ' the madding 
crowd ' lack. For the voice in the wilderness has medi- 
tation, deliberation and unquenchable faith behind it, 
whilst the babel of voices has generally nothing but the 
backing of the experience of personal enjoyment or the 


false and sentimental pity for the unwanted children and 
their suffering mothers. Argument of personal experience 
has as much weight as an act of a drunkard. The 
argument of pity is a trap into which it is dangerous to 
fall. Sufferings of unwanted children and of equally 
unwanted motherhood are punishments or warnings 
devised by beneficent nature. Disregard of the law of 
discipline and restraint is suicide. Ours is a state of 
probation. If we refuse to bear the yoke of discipline, 
we court failure like cowards, we avoid battle and give 
up the only joy of living. 

Hanjan, 27-3-1937 


During our morning and evening walks, Khansaheb 
Abdul Gaffar Khan and I often talk on matters of common 
interest. Having travelled in the frontier territories as far 
as Kabul and beyond and knowing the frontier tribes 
well, he often describes to me the habits and customs 
of these simple folk. He tells me that these tribesmen 
who are untouched by the so-called civilization live 
principally on maize and barley bread and lentils sup- 
plemented at times by buttermilk. They get meat but 
rarely. The only way I could account for their well-known 
hardiness was their open-air life and invigorating climate. 
Khansaheb promptly added, " That is not enough. The 
secret of their strength lies in their chaste lives. They 
marry, both men and women, after full maturity. Unfaith- 
fulness, adultery or unmarried love are practically un- 
known. Union out of wedlock is punishable by death, 
The injured party has the right to take the life of the 
wrong-doer. 11 

If this chastity is so universal as Khansaheb describes 
it, it furnishes us in India a lesson that we should take 
to heart. I suggested. to Khansaheb that if the fine phy- 
sique of the tribesmen was largely due to their continence, 


there must be perfect co-operation between the mind and 
the body. For if the mind hankered after satisfaction of 
the flesh and the body resisted, there must be tremendous 
waste of vital energy leaving the body thoroughly ex- 
hausted. Khansaheb agreed that that was a fair deduction 
and that, so far as he was able to judge, he felt that the 
tribesmen were so habituated to continence outside 
marriage that young men and women never seemed to 
desire sexual satisfaction outside marriage. Khansaheb 
also told me tiiat the women in the tribal areas never 
observed the purdah, there was no false prudery 
there, the women were fearless, roamed about anywhere 
freely, were well able to take care of themselves and 
defend their honour without seeking or needing male 

Khansaheb, however, admits that this continence not 
being based on reason or enlightened faith breaks down 
when these men and women of the hills come in contact 
with civilized or soft life where departure from the 
custom carries no punishment and public opinion looks 
upon unfaithfulness and adultery with more or less 
indifference. This opens up reflections which I must not 
discuss just now. My purpose in writing this just now 
is to seek corroboration and further light from 
those who know these tribesmen as Khansaheb does, 
and to suggest to young men and women of the plains 
that observance of continence, if it is really natural to 
the tribesmen, as Khansaheb thinks it is, should be 
equally natural to us, if only we would inhabit our thought 
world with the right kind of thoughts and deal summarily 
with the intruders. Indeed if the right kind settle down 
in sufficiently large numbers, the intruders will be crowded 
out, no doubt. The process requires courage. But self- 
restraint never accrues to the faint-hearted. It is the 
beautiful fruit of watchfulness and ceaseless effort in the 
form of prayer and fasting. The prayer is not vain repetition 
nor fasting mere starvation of the body. Prayer has to 
come from the heart which knows God by faith, and 
fasting is abstinence from evil or injurious thought, activity 


or food. Starvation of the body when the mind thinks of 
a multiplicity of dishes is worse than useless. 

Hanjan, 10-4-1937. 



Some years ago the Bihar Government in its Education 
Department had an inquiry into the question of unnatural 
vice in its schools, and the Committee of Inquiry had 
found the existence of the vice even among teachers who 
were abusing their position among their boys in order 
to satisfy their unnatural lust. The Director of Education 
had issued a circular prescribing departmental action on 
such vice being found to exist in connection with any 
teacher. It would be interesting to know the results, if 
any, issuing from the circular. 

I have had .literature too sent to me from other pro- 
vinces inviting my attention to such vice and showing 
that it was on the increase practically all over India in 
public as well as private schools. Personal letters -received 
from boys have confirmed the information. 

Unnatural though the vice is, it has come down to us 
from times immemorial. The remedy for all secret vice 
is most difficult to find. And it becomes still more difficult 
when it affects guardians of boys which the teachers are. 
1 If the salt loses its savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? ' 
In my opinion departmental action, necessary as it is in 
all proved cases, can hardly meet the case. The levelling 
of public opinion alone can cope with the evil. But in 
most matters there is no such thing as effective public 
opinion in this country. The feeling of helplessness that 
pervades political life has affected all other departments. 
We therefore pass by many a wrong that is being per- 
petrated in front of us. 

A system of education that puts an exclusive emphasis 
on literary equipment, not only is ill-adapted to deal 
with the evil but actually .results in promoting it. Boys 


who were clean before they went to public schools have 
been found to have become unclean, effeminate and 
imbecile at the end of their school course. The Bihar 
Committee has recommended the ' instilling into the 
minds of boys a reverence for religion '. But who is to 
bell the cat? The teachers alone can teach reverence 
for religion. But they themselves have none. It is 
therefore a question of a proper selection of teachers. 
But a proper selection of teachers means either a 
much higher pay than is now given, or reversion 
to teaching not as a career but as a life-long dedication 
to a sacred duty. This is in vogue even today among 
Roman Catholics. The first is obviously impossible in a 
poor country like ours. The second seems to me to be 
the only course left open. But that course is not open to 
us under a system of government in which everything 
has a price and which is the costliest in the world. 

The difficulty of coping with the evil is aggravated 
because the parents generally take no interest in the 
morals of their children. Their duty is done when they 
send them to school. The outlook before us is thus 
gloomy. But there is hope in the fact that there is only 
one remedy for all evil, viz., general purification. Instead 
of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the evil, 
each one of us must do the best one can by the scru- 
pulous attention to one's own immediate surroundings, 
taking self as the first and the immediate point of attack. 
We need not hug the comfort to ourselves that we are 
not like other men. Unnatural vice is not an isolated 
phenomenon. It is but a violent symptom of the 
same disease. If we have impurity within us, if we are 
sexually depraved, we must right ourselves before 
expecting to reform our neighbours. There is too much 
sitting in judgment upon others and too much indulgence 
towards self. The result is a vicious circle. Those who 
realize the truth of it must get out of it, and they will 
find that progress though never easy becomes sensibly 

Young India, 27-6-1929 


The Principal of the Sanatan Dharma College, Lahore, 
writes : 

" Allow me to request you to peruse the accompanying 
newspaper cutting, notices, etc., which speak for themselves. 
The Youths' Welfare Association is doing very useful work here 
in the Punjab. It has attracted notice in academic and admini- 
strative quarters, while it has secured the active interest of 
enlightened guardians of boys. Pandit Sitaram Das of Bihar is 
the leading spirit of this movement which counts very many 
distinguished people here among its patrons. 

The evil of juvenile seduction is admittedly more rampant 
in the Punjab and N. W. F. Province than elsewhere m India. 

May I pray that you will draw the attention of the country 
to this canker through a note or letter in the Hamjan or in any 
other newspaper ? " 

The Secretary of the Youth League wrote to me long 
ago on this very delicate subject. On receiving his letter 
I entered into correspondence with Dr. Gopichand who 
confirmed the statements made in the League Secre- 
tary's letter. But I could not see my way clear to discuss- 
ing the problem in these columns or elsewhere. I had 
known of the evil but was not sure that a newspaper 
discussion could deal with it to any purpose. Nor am I 
sure now. But I may not resist the appeal of the Princi- 
pal of the College. 

The vice is not new. It is wide-spread. As it is 
necessarily kept secret, it is not possible to detect it 
easily. It goes hand in hand with easy life. In the case 
referred to by the Principal, the teachers are alleged 
to be the corruptors of their own wards. 'When the 
salt loses its savour wherewith shall it be salted? ' 

This is a matter which no Commission, no Govern- 
ment can deal with successfully. It is the function of the 
moral reformer. The parents have to be awakened to 
a sense of their responsibility. The students should be 
brought in close touch with clean life. The idea that ethics 
and clean living are the foundation of true education, 
should be seriously propagated. Trustees of educational 
institutions have to exercise the greatest care in the 


selection of teachers, and having selected them, they 
have to see to it that they remain up to the mark. These 
are some of the ways in which the awful vice can be 
brought under control even if it cannot be eradicated. 

Haruan. 27-4-1935 



I gladly publish the following letter from the Principal, 
Sauatan Dharma College, Lahore: 

" In all earnestness I beg to draw your attention to the 
horror of the atrocities connected with cases of unnatural offence 
committed on children. 

As you are well aware, very few of these cases are reported 
to the police or taken to law courts. Of late there seems to have 
been an orgy of such cases in the Punjab. The enclosed news- 
paper cuttings, which report only the most flagrant of the very 
rare cases that come to law courts, will fully reveal to you the 
magnitude of this menace to our young boys and girls. Some 
months back daring attempts were made in Lahore by gundas to 
abduct little school-boys ^from the very gates of some schools in 
broad daylight. Even now special vigilence arrangements are 
necessary for them while going to and returning from school. 
The circumstances of the assaults narrated in the reports of the 
cases tried, are of rare and diabolical cruelty and daring. 

The feeling of the public in general is either one of apathy 
or of helplessness and lack of self-confidence in the matter of 
organized effort to crush these crimes. 

The enclosed copy of a circular issued by the Government 
of the Punjab will show you how the Government ieel helpness 
in the face of the apathy of the public as well as of their 
departmental officers. "* 

You rightly remarked in your editorial notes in Young India 
of the 9th September 1926, and of the 27th June 1929, that the 
time was ripe for a public discussion of the subject of sexual 
offences of this class, and that only a levelling up of public 
opinion all over the country could cope with the evil. The only 
effective way to such levelling up of public opinion is publicity 
through newspapers. 

I submit most respectfully that this is the least that the 
horrible situation demands; and I appeal to you to give a lead 
to our press by raising your powerful voice for mobilizing an 
intensive press campaign against this horror." 


There can be no doubt that there must be a relent- 
less war waged against this vice. I have gone through 
the gruesoipe reports enclosed with this letter. These 
are of a different type from those dealt with by me in 
the articles to which the Principal refers. They had 
reference to cases exclusively of seduction by teachers. 
The reports now sent mostly deal with cases of unnatural 
assaults committed by gunias on boys of tender age 
and then murdered. Though the cases of unnatural 
assaults followed by murder appear more hedious, I 
believe that they are more capable of being dealt with 
than the cases in which boys become willing victims 
of their teachers. Both require incessant vigilance by 
the reformer and the rousing of public conscience against 
the commission of this disgusting crime. It is the duty 
of leaders in the Punjab in which this crime seems to 
flourish most, to get together irrespective of race or 
creed, and devise methods of protecting the youth of 
the land of five rivers from criminals whether as seducers 
or ravishers and murderers. It is no use passing resolu- 
tions condemning the criminals. All crimes are different 
kinds of diseases and they should be treated as such 
by the reformers. That does not mean that the police 
will suspend their function of regarding such cases as 
public crimes, but their measures are never intended 
to deal with causes of these social disturbances. To do 
so is the special prerogative of the reformer. And 
unless the moral tone of society is raised, in spite of 
whatever may be written in the newspapers, such crimes 
will flourish, if only for the simpfle reason that the moral 
sense of these perverts has become blunt and they 
rarely read newspapers, especially those portions which 
contain fervent exhortation against such vices. The only 
effective way I can conceive of, therefore, is for some 
enthusiastic reformers like the Principal of the Sanatan 
Dharma College, if he is one, to gather together other 
reformers and take concerted measure to deal with 
the evil, 

Haujan, 19-10-1935 


It is the fashion in some quarters nowadays for the 
young to discredit whatever may be said by old people. 
I am not prepared to say that there is absolutely no 
justification for this belief. But I warn the youth of 
the contry against always discounting whatever old men 
or women may say, for the mere fact that it is said by 
such persons. Even as wisdom often comes from the 
mouths of babes, so does it often come from the mouths 
of old people. The golden rule is to test everything in 
the light of reason and experience, no matter from whom 
it comes. I want to revert to the subject of birth control 
by contraceptives. It is dinned into one's ears that 
gratification of the sex urge is a solemn obligation like 
the obligation of discharging debts lawfully incurred, 
and that, not to do so would involve the penalty of 
intellectual decay. This sex urge has been isolated from 
the desire for progeny, and it is said by the protagonists 
of the use of contraceptives that conception is an 
accident to be prevented except when the parties 
desire to have children. I venture to suggest that this 
is a most dangerous doctrine to preach anywhere, 1 much 
more so in a country like India where the middle class 
male populatfon has become imbecile through abuse of 
the creative function. If satisfaction of the sex urge is a 
duty, the unnatural vice of which I wrote some time ago 
and several other ways of gratification would be com- 
mendable. The reader should know that even persons of 
note have been known to approve of what is commonly 
known as sexual perversion. He may be shocked at the 
statement. But if it somehow or other gains the stamp 
of respectability, it will be the rage among boys and 
girls to satisfy their urge among members of their own 
sex. For me the use of contraceptives is not far removed 
from the means to which persons have hitherto resorted 
for the gratification of their sexual desire with the 


results that very few know. I know what havoc secret 
vice has played among school boys and school 
girls. The introduction of contraceptives under the 
name of science and the imprimatur of known leaders 
of society have intensified the complication and made the 
task of reformers who work for purity of social life, well- 
nigh impossible for the moment. I betrary no confidence 
when I inform the reader that there are unmarried girls 
of impressionable age studying in schools and colleges 
who study birth control literature and magazines with 
avidity and even possess contraceptives. It is impossible 
to confine their use to married women. Marriage loses 
its sanctity when its purpose and highest use is conceived 
to be the satisfaction of the animal passion without 
contemplating the natural result of such satisfaction. 

I have no doubt that those learned men and women 
who are carrying on propaganda with missionary zeal 
in favour of the use of contraceptives, are doing 
irreparable harm to the youth of the country under the 
false belief that they will be saving thereby, the poor 
women who may be obliged to bear children against 
their will. Those who need to limit their children will 
not be easily reached by them. Our poor women have 
not the knowledge or the training that the women of 
the West have. Surely the propaganda is not being 
carried on on behalf of the middle class women, for 
they do not need the knowledge, at any rate so much 
as the poor classes do. 

The greatest harm, however, done by that prqpaganda 
lies in its rejection of the old ideal and substitution in 
its place of one which, if carried out, must spell the 
moral and physical extinction of the race. The horror 
with which ancient literature has regarded the fruitless 
use of the vital fluid was not a superstition born of 
ignorance. What shall we say of a husbandman who will 
sow the finest seed in his possession on stony ground 
or of the owner of a field who will receive, in his field 
rich with fine soil, good seed under conditions that 
will make it impossible for it to grow ? God has blessed 


man with seed that has the highest potency and woman 
with a field richer than the richest earth to be found 
anywhere on this globe. Surely it is criminal folly for 
man to allow his most precious possession to run to 
waste. He must guard it with a care greater than he 
will bestow upon the richest pearls in his possession. 
And so is a woman guilty of criminal folly who will 
receive the seed in her life-producing field with the 
deliberate intention of letting it run to waste. Both he 
and she will be judged guilty of misuse of the talents 
given to them and they will be dispossessed of what 
they have been given. Sex urge is a fine and noble 
thing. There is nothing to be ashamed of in it. But it 
is meant only for the act of creation. Any other use of 
it is a sin against God and humanity. Contraceptives of 
a kind there were before and there will be hereafter; 
but the use of them was formerly regarded as sinful. 
It was reserved for our generation to glorify vice by 
calling it virtue. The greatest disservice protagonists of 
contraceptives are rendering to the youth of India is 
to fill their minds with what appears to me to be wrong 
ideology. Let the young men and women of India who 
hold her destiny in their** hands beware of this false god 
and guard the treasure with which God has blessed 
them and use it, if they wish, for the only purpose for 
which it is intended. 

Hanjan, 28-3-1936 


Thus writes a young man : 

"You want everyone to become moral in order to change 
the world. I do not exactly know what you mean by morality 
whether you confine it to matters sexual, or whether it covers 
the wjiole field of human conduct. I suspect the former, because 
1 do not see you pointing out to your capitalist and landlord 
friends, the great injustice and harm they are doing by making 
huge profits at the expense of labourers and tenants, while 
you are never tired of castigating young men and women for 
their moral lapses in sexual matters and upholding before 
them the virtues of celibacy. You claim to know the mind of 
Indian youth. 1 do not claim to represent anybody, but as a 
solitary young man I beg to challenge your claim. You do not 
seem to know through what environment, the modern middle- 
class youth is passing, what with long spells of unemployment, 
crushing social customs and traditions, and temptations of co- 
education 1 It is all a conflict between the old and the new 
ideas, resulting usually in the defeat and misery of youth. I 
humbly request you to be kind and compassionate to the youth 
and not to judge them by your puritanic standards of morality. 
After all, I think, every act, when it is performed with mutual 
consent and mutual* love, is moral whether it is performed within 
marriage or without. Since the, invention of contraceptives the 
sexual basis of the institution of marriage has been knocked 
down. It has now become an institution mainly for the protection 
and welfare of children. You will, perhaps, be shocked at these 
ideas I would here venture to ask you not to forget your own 
youth when judging the present-day youth. You were an over- 
sexed individual given to excessive indulgence, which seems 
to have created in you a sort of disgust towards the sexual act, 
and hence your asceticism and the idea of sin. Compared to 
you, I think many young men of today are better in this respect," 

This is from a typical letter. To my knowledge the 
writer has gone through several changes even during 
the past three months that I have known him. He is still 
passing through a crisis. The extract quoted is from a 
long letter which, together with many of his other 
writings, he would gladly have me publish. But what I 
have quoted just represents the attitude of many a youth. 


Of course my sympathies are with young men and 
young women. I have a vivid recollection of the days 
of my own youth. And it is because of my faith in the 
youth of the country that I am never tired of dealing 
with problems that face them. 

For the morals, ethics and religion are convertible 
terms. A moral life without reference to religion is like 
a house built upon sand. And religion divorced from 
morality is like 'sounding brass 1 good only for making 
a noise and breaking heads. Morality includes truth, 
ahimta and continence. Every virtue that mankind has 
ever practised is referable to and derived from these 
three fundamental virtues. Non-violence and continence 
are again derivable from Truth, which for me is God. 

Without continence a man or woman is undone. 
To have no control over the senses is like sailing in a 
rudderless ship, bound to break to pieces on coming 
in contact with the very first rock. Hence my constant 
insistence on continence. My correspondent is right in 
saying in effect that the coming in of contraceptives has 
changed the ideas about sexual relations. If mutual 
consent makes a sexual act moral whether within 
marriage or without, and by parity of reasoning, even 
between members of the same sex, the whole basis of 
sexual morality is gone and nothing but 'misery and 
defeat ' awaits the youth of the country. Many young 
men and women are to be found in India who would 
be glad to be free from the craving for mutual inter- 
course in whose grip they find themselves. This craving 
is stronger than the strongest intoxicant which has ever 
enslaved man. It is futile to hope that the use of 
contraceptives will be restricted to the mere regulation 
of progeny. There is hope for a decent life only so 
long as the sexual act is definitely related to the concep- 
tion of precious life. This rules out of court perverted 
sexuality and to a lesser degree promiscuity. Divorce 
of the sexual act from its natural consequence must 
lead to hideous promiscuity and condonation, if not 
endorsement, of unnatural vice. 


Since my own experiences are relevant to the 
consideration of the sex problem, let me just warn the 
reader who has not read my autobiographical chapters 
against drawing the conclusion that my correspondent 
has drawn about my sins ol indulgence. Whatever 
over-indulgence there was with me, it was strictly 
restricted to my wife. And I was living in a tf big joint 
family where there was hardly any privacy except for 
a few hours at night. I awoke to the folly of indulgence 
for the sake of it even when I was twentythree years 
old, and decided upon total brahmacharya in 1899, i. e., 
when I was thirty years old. It is wrong to call me an 
ascetic. The ideals that regulate my life are presented 
for acceptance by mankind in general. I have arrived 
at them by gradual evolution. Every step was thought 
out, well considered, and taken with the greatest 
deliberation. Both my continence and non-violence were 
derived from personal experience and became necessary 
in response to the calls of public duty. The isolated life 
I had to lead in South Africa whether as a householder, 
legal practitioner, social reformer Or politician, required, 
for the due fulfilment of these duties, the strictest 
regulation of sexual life and a rigid practice of non- 
violence and truth in human relations, whether with my 
own countrymen or with the Europeans, I claim to be 
no more than an average man with less than average 
ability. Nor can I claim any special merit for such non- 
violence or continence as I have been able to reach 
with laborious research. I have not the shadow of a 
doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have, 
if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate 
the same hope and faith. Work without faith is like an 
attempt to reach the bottom of a bottomless pit. 

Hanjan, 3-10-1936 


A correspondent who prefers to remain anonymous 
seeks an answer to a question arising out of my article 
in Hanjan addressed to the young. Although it is a 
sound rule to ignore anonymous correspondence, I do 
sometimes make an exception when the question put 
is substantial as in the present case. 

The letter is in Hindi and is longer than it need 
have been. Its purport is : 

"From your writing I doubt if you understand the young 
mind. What has been possible for you is not possible for all 
young men. I happen to be married. I can restrain myself. My 
wife cannot. She does not want children, but she does want to 
enjoy herseli. What am I to do? Is it not my duty to satisfy her? 
I am not generous enough to look upon her satisfying her desire 
through other channels. I read from the papers that you are 
not averse to promoting marriages and blessing them. Surely 
you know or ought to know that they are not contracted with 
the high purpose that you have mentioned." 

The correspondent is right. The fact that I bless so 
many marriages when they satisfy the tests that I have 
set as to age, economy, etc., perhaps shows somewhat 
that I know the youth of the country to an extent that 
would justify my guiding them when they seek my 

My correspondent's case is typical. He deserves 
sympathy. That the sole purpose of sexual connection 
is procreation is in the nature of a new discovery for 
me. Though I had known the rule, I had never before 
given it the weight it deserved. I must have till recently 
regarded it as a mere pious wish. I now regard it 
as a fundamental law of married state, which is 
easy of observance if its paramount importance 
is duly recognized. My object will be fulfilled when 
the law is given its due place in society. To me it is a 
living law. We break it always and pay heavily for its 
breach. If my correspondent realizes its inestimable 
value and if he has love for his wife and has faith in 


himself, he will convert her to his view. Is he sincere 
when he says he can restrain himself? Has" the animal 
passion become transmuted in his case into a higher 
passion, say, for service of fellow beings ? Does he 
naturally refrain from doing anything to excite the 
passion in his wife? Let him know that Hindu science 
denotes eight kinds of unions which include sexual 
suggestions made even by signs. Is the correspondent 
free from these ? If he is not, and if he is sincerely 
desirous that his wife should be weaned from the sexual 
desire, let him surround her with the purest love, let 
him explain the law to her, let him explain the physical 
effects of union without the desire for procreation, let 
him tell her what the vital fluid means. Let him further 
engage his wife in healthy pursuits and strive to regulate 
her diet, exercise, etc., so as to still the passion in her. 
Above all, if he is a man of religion, he will try to 
transmit to his companion his own living faith. For, I 
must confess that the observance of the law of continence 
is impossible without a living faith in God which is 
living Truth. It is the fashion nowadays to dismiss God 
from life altogether and insist on the possibility of 
reaching the highest kind of life without the necessity of 
a living faith in a living God. I must confess my inability 
to drive the truth of the law home to those who have no 
faith in and no need for a Power infinitely higher than 
themselves. My own experience has led me to the 
knowledge that fullest life is impossible without an 
immovable belief in a living Law in obedience to which 
the whole universe moves. A man without that faith is 
like a drop thrown out of the ocean bound to perish. 
Every drop in the ocean shares its majesty and has the 
honour of giving us the ozone of life. 

Hanian, 25-4-1928, 


11 With reference to your note entitled A Student's Difficulty 
appearing in the Hainan dated January 9, 1937, I submit the 
following in all humility for your kind consideration. I feel you 
have not done justice to the student in question. The problem 
defies easy solution. Your reply to his question is vague and 
general. You ask students to shake off false notions of dignity 
and rank themselves among the common labourers. All this 
general talk does not carry one far and is certainly not worthy 
of a supremely practical man like you. Please consider the 
problem at greater length and offer a detailed, practical and 
comprehensive solution with special reference to the 
following case 

I am a student of M A. ( Ancient Indian History } in the 
University of Lucknow. I am about 21 years of age. I have a love 
for learning and want to do as much of it as possible in my life- 
time. I am also inspired by your ideology of life. In about a 
month's time when the final M. A. Exminations come off I will 
have done with my education, and will have to enter life, as 
they say. Besides a wife. I have 4 brothers (all younger, one of 
them married), 2 sisters (both below twelve years of age) and 
my parents to support. There is no capital to fall back upon. 
The landed property 13 very small. What should I do for the 
education of the sisters and brothers? Then the sisters will 
have to be married sooner rather than later. Above all, where 
are the food and clothing to come from? I am not a lover of 
the so-called standard of living. I want just a healthy condition 
of life, besides* provision for emergencies for myself and for 
those who depend on me. It is more or less only a question of 
two healthy meals and tidy clothes I want to lead an econo- 
mically honest life. I don't want to earn a living by usury or by 
selling flesh. I have an ambition for patriotic service also. I am 
willing to fulfil your conditions laid down in the note referre'd 
to above to the best of my ability. But I do not know what to do I 
Where and how to begin? My education has been ruinously 
academic, and theoretical. I sometimes think of spinning, your 
pet panacea, but then I do not know how to learn it and what 
to do with the spun yarn, etc. 

Yes, under the circumstances in which I am placed, will you 
suggest my adopting contraceptive methods ? I may assure you 
I believe in self-control and brahmacharya. But then it wili be 
some time before I become a brahmachan. I am afraid unless 
I adopt artificial contracptive methods during the period before 
the desired consummation of full self-control, I may get children 


and invite economic ruination thereby. And, moreover, I feel 
that just now it is not quite proper m the interests of a normally 
healthy emotional life of my wife to impose on her a life of 
rigorous self-control. After all, sex has its place in the lives of 
normal men and women. I am not an exception to it, much less 
my wife who has not the equipment to read and understand 
your great writings on brahmacharya or dangers of 
indulgence, etc. 

I regret the letter has been a little too lengthy. But then I 
wanted to avoid brevity at the cost of clarity. You are at liberty 
to make what use you like of this letter." 

Though this letter was received about the end of 
February last, I am able to deal with it only now. It 
raises issues of great importance, each demanding large 
enough space for two columns of Hanjan. But I must 
be brief. 

The very difficulties the student raises, though serious 
in their setting, are of his own making. The very mention 
of them must show the falsity of his position and of the 
educational system in our country. It turns education 
into a purely commercial product to be converted into 
money. For me education has a much nobler purpose. 
.Let the student count himself as one among the millions, 
and he will discover that millions of young men and 
women of his age cannot fulfil the conditions which he 
will have his degree to do. Why should he make himself 
responsible for the maintenance of all the relatives he 
mentions ? Why should the grown-up ones, if of sound 
body, not labour for their maintenance? It is wrong to 
have many drones to one busy bee though a male. 

The remedy lies in his unlearning many things. He 
must revise his ideas of education. His sisters ought not 
to repeat the expensive education that he had. They can 
develop their intelligence through lerning some handicraft 
in a scientific manner. The moment they do so, they have 
development of the mind side by side with that of the 
body. And if they will learn to regard themselves as 
servants of humanity rather than its exploiters, they will 
have development of the heart i. e. the soul as well. 
And they will become equal earners of bread with 
their brother. 


I might as well discuss here his sister's marriage to 
which reference has been made in the letter. I do not 
know what is meant by marriage taking place 'sooner 
rather than later'. In no case need it take place before 
they are 20 years old. It is no use thinking so many years 
in advance. And if he will revise the whole scheme of 
life, he will have the sisters to choose their partners, and 
the ceremony need never cost more than five rupees 
each, if that. I have been present at several such 
ceremonies. And the husbands or their elders have been 
graduates in fair circumstances. 

It is pathetic to find the student so helpless as not to 
know how and where to have spinning lessons. Let him 
make a diligent search in Lucknow and he will find that 
there are young men enough to teach him. But he need 
not confine himself to spinningj though it too is fast 
becoming a full-time occupation able to give a village- 
minded man or woman his or her livelihood. I hope I 
have said here sufficient to enable him to dot the i's 
and cross the t's. 

And now for contraceptives. Even here, the difficulty 
is imaginary. He is wrong in underrating his wife's 
intelligence. I have no doubt whatsoever that if she is 
the ordinary type of womanhood, she will readily respond 
to his self-restraint. Let him be true to himself and ask 
himself whether he has enough of it himself. All the 
evidence in my possession goes to show that it is man 
who lacks the power of self-restraint more than woman. 
But there is no need for belittling his own inability to 
exercise restraint. He must manfully face the prospect 
of a large family and discover the best means of 
supporting them. He must know that against the millions 
who are strangers to the use of contraceptives, there 
are possibly a few thousand who use them. The millions 
are in no dread of having to breed their children though 
the latter may not all be wanted. I suggest that it is 
cowardly to refuse to face the consequences of one's 
acts. Persons who use contraceptives will never learn 
the virtue of self-restraint. They wilt not n$,ed it. 


Self-indulgence with contraceptives may prevent the 
coming of children but will sap the vitality of both men 
and women perhaps more of men than of women. It is 
unmanly to refuse battle with the deviO Let my 
correspondent resolve upon self-restraint as the only 
sure and honourable method of avoiding unwanted 
children. What though he and his fail in the effort a 
hundred times ? Joy is in the battle. The result comes 
by the grace of God. 

Hari]an, 17-4-1937 


A friend writes : 

" About two and a half years ago this city was convulsed by 
a social tragedy. A Vaidiya gentleman had a sixteen years old 
daughter. She had a maternal uncle aged twentyone years 
studying in college in the same city. The two fell secretly into 
love with each other. The girl is said to have become pregnant. 
When the true state of affairs at last became known, the lovers 
committed suicide by taking poison, The girl died immediately 
but. the boy died a couple of days afterwards in the hospital. 
The incident raised a storm of controversy and set all tongues 
wagging, so much so that \t became difficult for the bereaved 
parents of the hapless girl to dwell in the city. In the course 
of time the storm blew over. But the memory of the event still 
lingers in the people's minds and is raked up every now and 
then, whenever a similar topic arises. At the time when the 
storm was at its height and nobody had a. kind word to say about 
the deceased unfortunate lovers, I shocked everybody by ex- 
pressing my opinion that under the afore-mentioned circumstances 
the young lovers ought to have been allowed to have their way. 
But mine remained a voice in the wilderness. What is your opinion 
in the matter ? " 

I have deliberately kept back the name of the 
correspondent' and the place at the request of the 
writer, as he did not want old sores to be reopened 
by a revival of an old controversy. All the same I feel 
that a public discussion of this delicate topic is necessary. 
In my opinion such marriages as are interdicted in a 


particular society, cannot be recognized all at once or 
at the will of an individual. Nor has society or relatives 
of parties concerned any right to impose their will upon, 
and forcibly curtail the liberty of action of the . young 
people who may want to contract such marriages. In the 
instance cited by the correspondent, both the parties had 
fully attained maturity. They could well think for them- 
selves. No one had a right forcibly to prevent them from 
marrying each other if they wanted to. Society could at 
the most refuse to recognize the marriage, but it was the 
height of tyranny to drive them to suicide. 

Marriage taboos are not universal and are largely 
based on social usage. The usage varies from province 
to province and as between different divisions. This does 
not mean that the youth may ride roughshod over all 
established social customs and inhibitions. Before they 
decide to do so, they must convert public opinion to their 
side. In the meantime, the individuals concerned ought 
patiently to bide their time or, if they cannot do that 
calmly and quietly, to face the consequences of social 

At the same time it is equally the duty of society not 
to take up a heartless, step-motherly attitude towards 
those who might disregard or break" the established 
conventions. In the instance described by my corres- 
pondent, the guilt of driving the young couple to suicide 
certainly rests on the shoulders of society if the version 
that is before me is correct. 

Haujan. 29-5-2937 


A friend writes : 

"In the current issue of the Hanjan Sevak in your article entitled 
'A Moral Dilemma 1 you have observed, 'Many marriage taboos 
appear to have grown out of social customs. They are nowhere 
seen to rest on any vital, moral or religious principle. My own 
instinct based upon my experience tells me that piobably these 
taboos were promulgated out of eugenic considerations. It is a 
well-known principle of the science of eugenics that the issue 
resulting from the crossing of exogamous elements is eugenically 
fitter than the product of endogamous unions. That is the reason 
why in Hinduism Sagotra (^fq\?|) and Sapmda (gftu^) marriages are 
interdicted. On the other hand, if we admit social custom with 
all its kaleidoscopic variety and change to be the sole reason 
for these taboos, we are left with no strong reason why marriages 
bet ween paternal uncle and niece, or for the matter of that, between 
brother and sister, should absolutely be tabooed. If, as you say, 
the begetting of progeny be the only legitimate object of marriage, 
then the choice of partners would become purely a question of 
eugenic harmony. Are all other considerations to be ruled out 
of court as relatively unimportant ? If not, what should be their 
order of precedence ? I would set it down as follows : 

(1) Mutual attraction or love; 

(2) Eugenic fitness ; 

(3) Approval ^nd consent of the respective families concerned; 
and consideration for the interest of the social order to which 
one belongs; 

(4) Spiritual development. 
What do you say to it ? 

The Hindu shastras have emphatically set down procreation 
as the sole end of marriage, as the ancient benediction that is 
pronounced upon the prospective housewife by her elders at 'the 
time of marriage, viz., 'May you be blessed with eight children' 1 
shows. This bears out your contention that cohabitation in marriage 
should only be for the purpose of begetting offspring, never 
for sensual gratification. But then, would you expect a married 
couple to be satisfied with only one offspring irrespective of 
whether it is male or female ? Besides the longing to perpetuate 
one's line which you have very properly recognized, there also 
has existed amongst us, a strong feeling that this can be properly 
done only through a male issue. And the birth of a girl, therefore, 
is less welcome than that of a boy. In view of this very wide- 
spread craving for a male issue, don't you think that your ideal 


of having only* one offspring should be modified so as to include 
the begetting of a male issue in addition to the possible female 

I entirely agree with you that a married person who confines 
the sex act strictly to the purpose of procreation, should be 
regarded as a brahmachan. I also hold with you that in the case 
of a married couple who have practised the rule of purity and 
self-control before and after marriage, a single act of union must 
lead to v conception. In support of your first point there is in our 
shastras the celebrated story of Vishwamitra and Arundhati, the 
wife of Vasishtha who, in spite of her one hundred sons, was 
greeted by Vishwamitra as a perfect brahmachanm, whose com- 
mand even the elements were bound to obey because her con- 
nubial relations with her husband were purely directed to the 
attainment and discharge of the function of motherhood. But I 
doubt whether even the Hindu shastras would support your ideal 
of having only one offspring, irrespective of whether it is male 
or female. It seems to me, therefore, that if you liberalize your 
ideal of married life so as to include the begetting of one male 
offspring in addition to the possible female ones, it would go 
a long way towards satisfying many married couples. Otherwise, 
I am afraid, most people would find it to be harder to limit sexual 
relationship to the procreation of the first child and then, irres- 
pective of its sex, practise complete abstention for the rest of 
life than never to marry at all. I am being slowly forced to the 
view that sexuality is man's -primitive nature, self-control is a 
cultivated virtue representing a step in his upward evolution 
towards religion and spirituality which is the natural law of his 
development. That is why self-control has been held in such 
high regard. I honour the person who lives up to the ideal of 
regarding sexual union only as a means for procreation. I also 
agree that coming together under any other circumstance would 
be sensual indulgence. But I am not prepared to condemn it as 
a heinous sin or to regard a husband and wife who cannot help 
their nature as fallen creatures to be treated with cheap pity 
or high -brow contempt." 

I do not know what the scientific basis for the various 
taboos in respect of marriage relationships is. But it seems 
to me clear that a social custom or usage that helps the 
practice of virtue and self-control, should have the sanctity 
of a moral law. if it is eugenic considerations that are at 
the root of interdiction of marriages between brother 
and sister, then they ought to apply equally to cousin- 
marriages. A safe rule of conduct, therefore, would be 
as a rule to respect such taboos where they exist in a 


particular society. I accept generally the conditions for 
an ideal marriage enumerated by my correspondent. 
But I would change their order of importance and put 
'love 1 last in the list. By giving it the first place, the 
other conditions are liable to be overshadowed by it 
altogether and rendered more or less nugatory. There- 
fore, spiritual development ought to be given the first 
place in the choice for marriage. Service should come 
next, family considerations and the interest of the social 
order should have the third place, and mutual attraction 
or 'love 1 , the fourth and the last place. This means that 
4 love 1 alone, where the other three conditions are not 
fulfilled, should not be held as a valid reason for 
marriage. At the same time, marriage, where there is 
no love, should equally be ruled out even though all the 
other conditions are fully complied with. I should score 
out the condition of eugenic fitness, because the beget- 
ting of offspring being the central purpose of marriage, 
eugenic fitness cannot be treated merely as a ' condition '; 
it is the sine qua non of marriage. 

Hindu shastras certainly show a marked bias in 
favour of the male offspring. But this originated at a 
time when physical warfare was the order of the day 
and adequate man-power was a nne qua non of success 
in the struggle for existence. The number of sons that 
a man had was, therefore, then looked upon as a mark 
of virility and strength, and to facilitate the begetting of 
numerous offspring, even polygamy was sanctioned and 
encouraged. But if we regard marriage as a sacrament, 
there is room in it only for one offspring, and that is 
why in our shastras the first offspring is described as 
*&;!, i. e. ' duty-born', all subsequent issues being 
referred to as WTSI, i. e. 'lust-born'. I make no distinc- 
tion between son and daughter. Such distinction is, in 
my opinion, invidious and wrong. The birth of a son or 
a daughter should be welcome alike. 

The story of Vishwamitra and Vasishtha is good as 
an illustration of the principle that the sexual act, 
performed solely for the purpose of begetting offspring 


is not inconsistent with the highest ideal of brahmacharya. 
But the whole of that story need not be taken literally. 
Sexual intercourse for the purpose of carnal satisfaction 
is reversion to animality, and it should therefore be 
man's endeavour to rise above it. But failure to do so 
as between husband and wife, cannot be regarded as a 
sin or a matter of obloquy. Millions in this world eat 
for the satisfaction of their palate; similarly, millions of 
the husbands and wives indulge in the sex act for their 
carnal satisfaction and will continue to do so and also 
pay the inexorable penalty in the shape of numberless 
ills with which nature visits all violations of its order. 
The ideal of absolute brahmacharya or of married 
brahmacharya is for those who aspire to a spiritual or 
higher life; it is the sine qua non of such life. 

Hanjan, 5-6-1937 


Shri Maganbhai Desai, who received the other day 
the degree equivalent to Master of Arts from the 
Gujarat Vidyapith, wrote to me a Gujarati letter dated 
7th October from which I cull the following : 

' 'May I invite you to discuss in the columns of the Han janbandhu 
a question which you have so far left more or less untouched, I 
mean the question of imparting sex instruction to young people ? 
As you know, Shri is regarded as a great advocate in its 
favour in Gujarat. Personally I have had always my doubts. But 
apart from them, I am not sure whether this particular gentleman 
is at all fitted for the task. The results at any rate are not at all 
encouraging. According to this gentleman it would seem as if 
the lack of sex education was at the root of all our educational 
problems and social ills. He and people of his way of thinking 
simply pounce upon the teaching of modem psychology that 
dormant libido is the motive spring of all human activity, and 
wuhout further ado, set to exalt and almost deify it. , that imp 
of our Ashram, remarked to me the other day, ' What do you 
know of the demon of sex which is in every breast ? ' His remark 
seemed to me to betray a dulling rather than awakening of his 


moral sensibility. No end of mischief is today being insidiously 
'done in the name of sex education Books are written on the 
subject, their successive editions follow close upon one another, 
each edition running into several., thousands. Some weeklies owe 
their very existence to a successful exploitation of this theme. 
They sell like hot ca^es. The resulting havoc can be easily 
imagined. One may, of course, say that society only gets what 
it wants and deserves. That, however, can hardly be a consolation 
to the reformer whose task is rendered extremely difficult by the 
spate of libidinous literature that masquerades under the name 
of sexual science 

I would therefore request you to publicly discuss this 
question. Should sex education be included in the educational 
curricula of our children ? Who should impart it ? What would 
be the necessary qualification for the task ? Should this subject 
be taught in a matter-of-fact manner to all and sundry just like 
geography or arithmetic ? Or is there any limit ? And if so, who 
is to draw the line and where ? Again, should the aim of sex 
education be to combat the onset of libido or simply to recognize 
it as an inevitable fact of nature which has to be accepted and 
submitted to ? " 

Sex complex is today steadily gaining ground in 
Gujarat as in the rest of India. And what is more, those 
who fall under its sway feel as if there is something 
meritorious about it. When a slave begins to take pride 
in his fetters and hugs them like precious ornaments, 
the triumph of the slave-owner is complete. But this 
success of Cupid, spectacular though it may be, will, I 
am convinced, prove to be short-lived and ignoble, and 
at long last end in inanition, even like a scorpion whose 
venom is spent. But that does not mean that we can 
in the meantime, afford to sit with folded hands. The 
certainty of its defeat need not, must not, lull us into a 
false sense of security. TJie conquest of lust is the 
highest endeavour of a man or woman's existence. 
Without overcoming lust man cannot hope to rule over 
self. And without rule over self there can be no Swaraj 
or Ramara). Rule of all without rule of oneself would 
prove to be as deceptive and disappointing as a 
painted toy-mango, charming to look at outwardly but 
hollow and empty within. No worker who has not over- 
come lust can hope to render any genuine service to 


the cause of Harijans, communal unity, khadi, cow- 
preservation or village reconstruction. Great causes like 
these cannot be served by intellectual equipment alone; 
they call for spiritual effort or soul-force. Soul-force 
comes only through God's grace, and God's grace 
never descends upon a man who is a slave to lust. 

What place has then instruction in sexual science in 
our educational system, or has it any place there at all ? 
Sexual science is of two kinds that which is used for 
controlling or overcoming the sexual passion, and that 
which is used to stimulate and feed it. Instruction in the 
former is as necessary a part of a child's education as 
the latter is harmful and dangerous and ftt therefore 
only to be shunned. All great religions have rightly 
regarded ' kama ' as the arch-enemy of man, anger or 
hatred coming only in the second place. According to 
the Gita, the latter is an offspring of the former. The 
Gita, of course, uses the word ' kama ' in its wider sense 
of desire. But the same holds good of the narrow sense 
in which it is used here. 

This, however, still leaves unanswered the question, 
i. e, whether it is desirable to impart to young pupils a 
knowledge about the use and function of generative 
organs. It seems to me that it is necessary to impart 
such knowledge to a certain extent, At present they are 
often left to pick up such knowledge anyhow with the 
result that they are misled into abusive practices. We 
cannot properly control or conquer the sexual passion 
by turning a blind eye to it. I am therefore strongly 
in favour of teaching young boys and girls, the significance 
and right use of their generative organs. And in my own 
way I have tried to impart this knowledge to young 
children of both sexes for whose training I was responsible. 

But the sex education that I stand for, must have for 
its object the conquest and sublimation of the sex passion. 
Such education should automatically serve to bring home 
to children, the essential distinction between man and 
brute, to make them realize that it is man's special 
privilege and pride to be gifted with the faculties of head 


and heart both; that he is a thinking no less than a 
feeling animal, as the very derivation of the word ?rg^ 
shows, and to renounce the sovereignty of reason over 
the blind instincts is therefore to renounce a man's estate. 
In man, reason quickens and guides the feeling. In brute, 
the soul lies ever dormant. To awaken the heart is to 
awaken the dormant soul, 'to awaken reason, and to 
inculcate discrimination between good and evil. 

Who should teach this true science of sex ? Clearly, 
he who has attained mastery over his passions. To teach 
astronomy and kindred sciences we have teachers who 
have gone through course of training in them and are 
masters of their art. Even so must we have as teachers 
of sexual science, i. e. the science of sex-control, those 
who have studied it and have acquired mastery over 
self. Even a lofty utterance? that has not the backing of 
sincerity and experience, will be inert and lifeless, and 
will utterly fail to penetrate and quicken the hearts of 
men, while the speech that springs from self-realization 
and genuine experience is always fruitful. 

Today our entire environment our reading, our 
thinking, our social behaviour is generally calculated 
to subserve and cater for the sex-urge. To break through 
its coils is no easy task. But it is a task worthy of our 
highest endeavour. Even if there are a handful of teachers 
endowed with practical experience, who accept the ideal 
of attaining self-control as the highest duty of man, and 
are fired by a genuine and undying faith in their mission, 
and are sleeplessly vigilant and active, their labour will 
light the path of the children of Gujarat, save the unwary 
from falling into the mire of sexuality, and rescue those 
who might be already engulfed in it. 

Hanjan. 21-11-1936 


A young man has sent me a letter which can be 
given here only in substance. It is as under : 

" I am a married man. I had gone out to a foreign country, 
had a friend whom both I and my parents implicitly trusted. During 
my absence he seduced my wife who has now conceived of him. 
My father now insists that the girl should resort to abortion; 
otherwise, he says, the family would be disgraced. To me it 
seems that it would be wrong to do so. The poor woman is consu- 
med with remorse She cares neither to eat nor drink, but is 
always weeping. Will you kindly tell me as to what my duty is 
in the case ? " 

I have published this letter with great hesitation. 
As everybody knows, such cases are by no means 
unfrequent in society. A restrained public discussion of 
the question, therefore, does not seem to me to be out 
of place. 

It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would 
be a crime. Countless husbands are guilty of the same 
lapse as this poor woman, but nobody ever quastions 
them. Society not only excuses them but does not even 
censure them. Then, again, the woman cannot conceal 
her shame while man can successfully hide his sin. 

The woman in question deserves to be pitied. It 
would be the sacred duty of the husband to bring up 
the baby with all the love and tenderness that he is 
capable of and to refuse to yield to the counsels of his 
father. Whether he should continue to live with his wife 
is a ticklish question. Circumstances may warrant sepa- 
ration from her. In that case he would be bound to 
provide for her maintenance and education and to help 
her to live a pure life. Nor should I see anything wrong 
in his accepting her repentance if it is sincere and 
genuine. Nay, further, I can imagine a situation when it 
would be the sacred duty of the husband, to take back 
an erring wife who has completely expiated for and 
redeemed her error. 

Young India, 3-1-1929. 


In 1891 after my return from England I virtually took 
charge of the children of the family and introduced 
the habit of walking with them boys and girls put- 
ting my hands on their shoulders. These were my 
brothers 1 children. The practice continued even after 
they grew old. With the extension of the family, it gradu- 
ally grew to proportions sufficient to attract attention. 

I was unconscious of doing any wrong, so far as I 
can recollect, till some years ago at Sabarmati an inmate 
of the Ashram told me that my practice, when extended 
to grown-uf girls and women, offended the accepted 
notions of decency. But after discussion with the inmates 
it was continued. Recently two co-workers who came to 
Wardha suggested that the practice was likely to set a 
bad example to others and that I should discontinue it 
on that account. Their argument did not appeal to me. 
Nevertheless I did not want to ignore the friends' 
warning. I, therefore, referred it for examination and 
advice to five inmates of the Ashram. Whilst it was 
taking shape, a decisive event took place. It was brought 
to my notice that a bright university student was taking 
all sorts of liberties in private with a girl who was under 
his influence, on the plea that he loved her like his own 
sister and could not restrain himself from some physical 
demonstration of it. He resented the slightest suggestion 
of impurity. Could I mention what the youth had been 
doing, the reader would unhesitatingly pronounce the 
liberties taken by him as impure. When I read the 
correspondence, I and those who saw it, came to the 
conclusion that either the young man was a consummate 
hypocrite or was self-deluded. 

Anyway the discovery set me athinking. I recalled 
the warning of the two co-workers and asked myself, 
how I would feel if* I found that the young man was using 
my practice in his defence. I may mention that the girl 


who is the victim of the youth's attentions, although she 
regards him as absolutely pure and brotherly, does not 
like them, even protests against them, but is too weak 
to resist his action. The self-introspection induced by the 
the event resulted, within two or three days of the 
reading of the correspondence, in the renunciation of the 
practice, and I announced it to the inmates of the 
Wardha Ashram on the 12th instant. It was not without 
a pang that I came to the decision. Never has an impure 
thought entered my being during or owing to the 
practice. My act has always been open. I believe that my 
act was that of a parent and has enabled the numerous 
girls under my guidance and wardship to give their 
confidences which perhaps no one else has enjoyed in 
the same measure. Whilst I do not believe in a brahma- 
charya which ever requires a wall of protection against 
the touch of the opposite sex and will fail it exposed to 
the least temptation, I am not unaware of the dangers 
attendant upon the freedom I have taken. 

The discovery quoted by me has, therefore, prompted 
me to renounce the practice, however pure it may have 
been in itself. Every act of mine is scrutinized by 
thousands of men and women, as I am conducting an 
experiment requiring ceaseless vigilance. I must avoid 
doing things which may require a reasoned defence. My 
example was never meant to be followed by all and 
sundry. The young man's case has come upon me as a 
warning; I have taken it in the hope that my renunciation 
will set right those who may have erred, whether under 
the influence of my example or without it. Innocent 
youth is a priceless possession, not to be squandered 
away for the sake of a momentary excitement, miscalled 
pleasure. And let the weak girls like the one in this 
picture be strong enough to resist the approaches, 
though they may be declared to be innocent, of young 
men who are either knaves or who do not know fahat 
they are doing. 

Harijan, 21-9-1935. 


By the grace of medical friends and self-constituted 
gaolers, Sardar Vallabhbhai and Jamnalalji, I am now 
able by way of trial to resume to a limited extent my 
talks with the readers of Hanjan. The restrictions that 
they have put on my liberty and to which I have agreed, 
are that for the time being at any rate, I shall not write 
for Hanian more than I may consider to be absolutely 
necessary and that too, not involving more than a few 
hours 1 writing per week. I shall not carry on private 
correspondence with reference to correspondents 1 per- 
sonal problems or domestic difficulties, except those with 
which I have already concerned myself, and I shall not 
accept public engagements or attend or speak at public 
gatherings. There are positive directions about sleep, 
recreation, exercise and food, with which the reader is 
not concerned and with which, therefore, I need not deal. 
I hope that the readers of Hanjan and correspondents 
will cooperate with me and Mahadev Desai, who has 
in the first instance to attend to all correspondence, in 
the observance of these restrictions. m 

It will interest the reader to know something, about 
the origin of the breakdown and the measures taken to 
cope with it. So far as I have understood the medical 
friends, after a very careful and painstaking examination 
of my system, they have found no functional derangement. 
Their opinion is that the breakdown was most probably 
due to deficiency of proteins and carbohydrates in the 
form of sugar and starches, coupled with overstrain for 
a prolonged period, involving long hours and concentration 
on numerous taxing private problems in additon to the 
performance of daily public duty. So far as I can 
recollect, I had been complaining for the past twelve 
months or more that if I did not curtail the volume of 
ever-growing work, I was sure to break down. Therefore, 
when it came, it was nothing new to me. And it is highly 


likely that the world would have heard little of it but 
for the overanxlety of one of the friends who, on seeing 
me indisposed, sent a sensational note to Jamnalalji 
who gathered together all the medical talent that was 
available in Wardha, and sent messages to Nagpur and 
Bombay for further help. 

The day I collapsed, I had a warning on rising in 
the morning that there was some unusual pain about 
the neck, but I made light of it and never mentioned 
it to anybody. I continued to go through the daily 
programme. The final stroke was a most exhausting and 
serious conversation I had with a friend whilst I was 
having the daily evening stroll. The nerves had already 
been sufficiently taxed during the preceding fortnight, 
with the consideration and solution of problems which for 
me were quite as big and as important as, say, the 
paramount question of Swaraj. 

Even if no fuss had been made over the collapse, I 
would have taken nature's peremptory warning to heart, 
given myself moderate rest and tided over the difficulty. 
But looking back upon the past, I feel that it was well 
that the fuss was made. The extraordinary precaution 
advised by the medical friends and equally extraordinary 
care taken by the two gaolers, enforced on me the 
exacting rest which I would not have taken and which 
allowed ample time for introspection. Not only have I 
profited by it, but the introspection has revealed vital 
defects in my following out of the interpretation of the 
Gita as I have understood it. I have discovered that I 
have not approached with adequate detachment, the 
innumerable problems that have presented themselves 
for solution. It is clear that I have taken many of them 
to heart and allowed them to rouse my emotional being 
and *hus affect my nerves. In other words, they have 
not, as they should have, in a votary of the Gita, left my 
body or mind untouched. I verily believe that one who 
literally follows the prescription of the eternal mother, 
need never grow old in mind. Such a one's body will 
wither in due course like leaves of a healthy tree, leaving 


the mind as young and as fresh as ever. That seems 
to me to be the meaning of Bhishma delivering his mar- 
vellous discourse to Yudhishthlra, though he was on his 
death-bed. Medical friends were never tired of warning 
me against being excited over or affected by events 
happening around me. Extra precautions were taken to 
keep from me news of a tragic character. Though I think 
I was not quite so bad a devotee of the Gita as their 
precautions lead me to suppose, there was undoubtedly 
substance behind them. For I discovered, with what a 
wrench I accepted Jamnalalji's conditions and demand 
that I should remove from Maganwadi to Mahila Ashram. 
Anyway I had lost credit with him, for detached action. 
The fact of the collapse was for him eloquent enough 
testimony for discrediting my vaunted detachment. I 
must plead guilty to the condemnation. 

The worst, however, was to follow. I have been 
trying to follow brahmacharya consciously and delibe- 
rately since 1899. My definition of it is purity, not merely 
of body but of both speech and thought also. With the 
exception of what must be regarded as one lapse, I can 
recall no instance, during more than thirtysix years' 
constant and conscious effort, of mental disturbance such 
as I experienced during this illness. I was disgusted 
with myself. The moment the feeling came I acquainted 
my attendants and tie medical friends with my condition. 
They could give me no help. I expected none. I broke 
loose after the experience from the rigid rest that was 
imposed upon me. The confession of the wretched expe- 
rience brought much relief to me. I felt as if a great 
load had been raised from over me. It enabled me to 
pull myself together before any harm could be done. 
But what of the Gita ? Its teaching is clear and precise, 
A mind that is once hooked to the Star of Stars becomes 
incorruptible. How far I must be from Him, He alone 
knows. Thank God my much vaunted Mahatmaship has 
never fooled me. But this enforced rest has humbled 
me as never before. It has brought to the surface my 
limitations and imperfections. But I am not so much 



ashamed of them, as I should be of hiding them from 
the public. My faith in the message of the Gita is as 
bright as ever. Unwearied, ceaseless effort is the price 
that must be paid for turning that faith into rich infallible 
experience. But the same Gita says without any equivo- 
cation that the experience is not to be had without divine 
grace. We should develop swelled heads if Divinity had 
not made that ample reservat :n. 

Hanjan. 29-2-1926 


A Congress leader said to me the other day, in the 
course of our conversations, "How is it that in quality, 
the Congress is not what it used to be in 1920-25 ? It 
has deteriorated. Ninety per cent of the members are 
not carrying out the Congress discipline. Can you not 
do something to mend this state of things? " 

The question is apposite and timely. I can't shirk 
responsibility by saying, 'I am no longer in the Congress. 
I have gone out of it for the purpose of serving 
it better. 1 I know that I still influence the Congress policy. 
As the author of the Congress constitution of 1920, I 
must hold myself responsible for such deterioration as 
is avoidable. 

The Congress started with an initial handicap in 
1920. Very few believed in truth and non-violence as a 
creed. Most members accepted them as a policy. It was 
inevitable. I had hoped that many would accept them 
as their creed after they had watched the working of 
the Congress under the new policy. Only some did, not 
many. In the beginning stages, the change thM came 
over the foremost leaders was profound. Readers will 
recall the letters from the late Pandit Motilal Nehru and 
Deshbandhu Das reproduced in the Young India. They 
had experienced a new joy and a new hope in a life of 
self-denial, simplicity and self-sacrifice, The Ali Brothers 


had almost become faqirs. As we toured from place 
to place, I watched with delight the change that was 
coming over the brothers. What was true of these four 
leaders was true of many others whom I can name. The 
enthusiasm of the leaders had infected the rank and file. 
But this phenomenal change was due to the spell of 
'Swaraj in one year 1 . The conditions I had attached to 
the fulfilment of the formula were forgotten. Khwaja 
'Saheb Abdul Majid even went so far as to suggest that, 
as the general of the Satyagraha army which the 
Congress had then become, and still is (if only 
Congressmen realize the meaning of Satyagraha), I 
should have made sure that the conditions were such 
that they would be fulfilled. Perhaps he was right. 
Only I had no such prevision in me. The use of non- 
violence on a mass scale and for political purposes was, 
even for myself, an experiment. I could not therefore 
dogmatize. My conditions were meant to be a measure 
of popular response. They might or might not be ful- 
filled. Mistakes, miscalculations were always possible. 
Be that as it may, when the fight for Swaraj became 
prolonged and Khilafat ceased to be a live issue, 
enthusiasm began to wane, confidence in non-violence 
even as a policy began to be shaken, and untruth crept 
in. People who had no faith in the twin virtues or* the 
Khadi clause stole in, and many even openly defied 
the Congress constitution. 

The evil has continued fo grow. The Working 
Committee has been making some attempt to purge the 
Congress of the evil but has not been able to put its 
foot down and risk the loss of numbers on the Congress 
register. I myself believe in quality rather than quantity. 

But there is no such thing as compulsion in the 
scheme of non-violence. Reliance has to be placed 
upon ability to reach the intellect and the heart the 
latter rather than the former. 

It follows that there must be power in ths word of 
a Satyagraha general not the power that the possession 
of limitless arms gives, but the power that purity of 


life, strict vigilance and ceaseless application produce. 
This is impossible without the observance of 
brahmacharya. It must be as full as it is humanly 
possible. Brahmacharya here does not mean mere 
physical self-control. It means much more. It means 
complete control over all the senses. Thus an Impure 
thought is a breach of brahmacharya; so is anger. All 
power comes from the preservation and sublimation of 
the vitality that is responsible for creation of life. If the 
vitality is husbanded instead of being dissipated, it is 
transmuted into creative energy of the highest order. 
This vitality is continuously and even unconsciously 
dissipated by evil,,, or even rambling, disorderly, un- 
wanted thoughts. And since thought is the root of all 
speech and action, the quality of the latter corresponds 
to that of the former. Hence perfectly controlled thought 
is itself power of the highest potency and can become 
self-acting. That seems to me to be the meaning of the 
silent prayer of the heart. If man is after the image of 
God, he has but to will a thing in the limited sphere 
allotted to him and it becomes. Such power is impossible 
in one who dissipates his energy in any way what- 
soever, even as steam kept in a leaky pipe yields no 
power. The sexual act divorced from the deliberate 
purpose of generation is a typical and gross form of 
dissipation and has therefore been specially and rightly 
chosen for condemnation/ But in one who has to organize 
vast masses of mankind for non-violent action, the full 
control described by me has to be attempted and 
virtually achieved. 

This control is unattainable save by the grace of God. 
There is a verse in the second chapter of the Gita which 
freely rendered means: " Sense-effects remain in abey- 
ance whilst one is fasting or whilst the particular sense 
is starved; but the hankering does not cease except 
when one sees God face to face." This control is not 
mechanical or temporary. Once attained it is never lost. 
In that state vital energy is stored up without any chance 
of escaping by the innumerable outlets. 


It has been said that such brahmacharya, if it is at 
all attainable, can be so only by cave-dwellers. A 
brahmachan, it is said, should never see, much less touch, 
a woman. Doubtless a brahmachan may not think of, speak 
of, see or touch a woman lustfully. But the prohibition, 
one finds in books on brahmacharya, is mentioned without 
the important adverb. The reason for the omission seems 
to be that man is no impartial judge in such matters, 
and therefore, cannot say when he is or is not affected by 
such contacts. Cupid's visitations are often unperceivable. 
Difficult though, therefore, brahmacharya is of observance 
when one freely mixes with the world, it is not of much 
value, if it is attainable only by retirement from the world. 

Anyway, I have practised brahmacharya for over 
thirty years with considerable success though living in the 
midst of activities. After the decision to lead the life of 
a brahmachan , there was little change in my outward 
practice, except with my wife. In the course of my work 
among the Indians in South Africa, I mixed freely with 
women. There was hardly an Indian woman in the 
Transvaal and Natal whom I did not know. They were 
so many sisters and daughters to me. My brahmacharya 
was not derived from books. I evolved my own rules 
for my guidance and that of those who, at my invitation, 
had joined me in the experiment. If I have not followed 
the prescribed restrictions, much less have I accepted the 
description found even in religious literature of woman as 
the source of all evil and temptation. Owing as I do all the 
good there may be in me to my mother, I have looked upon 
woman, never as an object for satisfaction of sexual desire, 
but always with the veneration due to my own mother. Man 
is the tempter and aggressor. It is not woman whose touch 
defiles man, but he is often himself too impure to touch 
her. But recently a doubt has seized me as to the nature of- 
the limitations that a brahmachan or brahmachanni should put 
upon himself or herself, regarding contacts with the 
opposite sex. I have set limitations which do not satisfy me. 
What they should be, I do not know. I am experimenting. I 
have never claimed to have been a perfect brahmachan 


of my definition. I have not acquired that control over my 
thoughts that I need for my researches in non-violence. 
If my non-violence is to be contagious and infectious, I 
must acquire greater control over my thoughts. There 
is perhaps a flaw somewhere which accounts for the 
apparent failure of leadership adverted to in the opening 
sentence of this writing. 

My faith in non-violence remains as strong as ever. 
I am quite sure that not only should it answer all our 
requirements in our country, but that it should, if pro- 
perly applied, prevent the bloodshed that is going on 
outside India and is threatening to overwhelm the 
Western world. 

My aspiration is limited. God has not given me the 
power to guide the world on the path of ntm-violence. 
But I have imagined that He has chosen me as His 
instrument for presenting non-violence to India for 
dealing with her many ills. The progress already made 
is great. But much more remains to be done. And yet 
I seem to have lost the power to evoke the needed 
response from Congressmen in general. It is a bad 
carpenter who quarrels with his tools. It is a bad 
general who blames his men for faulty workmanship. I 
know I am not a bad general. I have wisdom enough 
to know my limitations. God will give me strength 
enough to declare my bankruptcy if such is to be my 
lot. He will perhaps take me away when I am no longer 
wanted for the work which I have been permitted to 
do for nearly half a century. But I do entertain the hope 
that there is yet work for me to do, that the darkness 
that seems to have enveloped me will disappear, and 
that, whether, with another battle more brilliant than 
the Dandi March or without, India will come to her 
own demonstrably through non-violent means. I am 
praying for the light that will dispel the darkness. Let 
those who have a living faith in non-violence join me 
in the prayer. 

Hanjan, 23-7-1938 


There is a most pathetic letter from a college girl 
in the Punjab lying on my file for nearly two months. 
Want of time was but an excuse for shirking the answer 
to the girl's question. Somehow or other I was avoiding 
the task, though I knew the answer. Meanwhile I 
received another letter from a sister of great experience, 
and I felt that I could no longer evade the duty of 
dealing with the college girl's very real difficulty. Her 
letter is written in chaste Hindustani. I must try to do 
as much justice as I can to the letter, which gives me 
a perfect picture of her deep feeling. Here is my 
rendering of a portion of the letter : 

" To girls and grown-up women there come times, in spite 
of their wish to the contrary, when they have to venture out 
alone, whether they are going from one place to another in the 
same city, or from one town to another. And when they are 
thus found alone, evil-minded people^ pester them. They use 
improper or even indecent language whilst they are passing by. 
And if fear does not check them, they do not hesitate to take 
further liberty. I should like to know what part non-violence 
can play on such occasions. The use of violence is of course 
there. If the girl or the woman has sufficient courage, she will 
use what resources she has and teach miscreants a lesson. 
They can at least kick up a row that would diaw the attention 
of the people around, resulting in the miscreants being horse- 
whipped. But I know that the result oC such treatment would 
be merely to postpone the agony, not a permanent cure 
Where you know the people who misbehave, I feel sure that 
they will listen to reason, the gesture of love and humility. 
But what about a fellow cycling by, using foul language on 
seeing a girl or a woman unaccompanied by a male companion ? 
You have no opportunity of reasoning with him. There is no 
likelihood of your meeting him again. You may not even 
recognize him. You do not know his address. What is a poor 
girl or a woman to do in such cases ? By way of example I 
want to give you my own experience of last night ( 26th 
October ). I was going with a girl companion of mine on a very 
special errand at about 7-30 P. M. It was impossible to secure 
a male companion at the time and the errand could not be put 
off. On the way a Sikh young man passed by on his cycle "and 

continued to murmur something till we were within hearing 
distance. We knew that it was aimed at us, We felt hurt and 
uneasy. There was no crowd on the road. Before we had gone 
a few paces the cyclist returned. We recognized him at once 
whilst he was still at a respectful distance He wheeled towards 
us; heaven knows whether he had intended to get down or merely 
pass by us. We felt that we were in danger. We had no faith in 
our physical prowess. I myself am weaker than the average girl. 
But in my hands I had a big book. Somehow or other courage came 
to me all of a sudden. I hurled the heavy book at the cycle and 
roared out, ' Dare you repeat your pranks ? ' He could with 
difficulty keep his balance, put on speed and fled from us. Now 
if I had not flung the book at his cycle, he might have harassed 
us by his filthy language to the end of our journey. This was 
an ordinary, perhaps insignificant, occurrence ; but I wish you 
could come to Lahore and listen to the difficulties of us unfor- 
* tunate girls. You would surely discover proper solution. First of 
all, tell me how, in the circumstances mentioned above, can 
girls apply the principle of ahimsa and save themselves. 
Secondly, what is the remedy for curing youth of the abo- 
minable habit of insulting womenfolk ? You would not suggest 
that we should wait and suffer till a new generation, taught 
from childhood to be polite to their womenfolk, comes into being. 
The Government is either unwilling or unable to deal with this social 
evil. The big leaders have no time for such questions. Some, when 
they hear of a girl bravely castigating ill-behaved youth, say, 'Well 
done. That is the way all girls should behave.' Sometimes a 
leader is found eloquently lecturing against such misbehaviour 
of students. But no one applies himself continuously to the solution 
of this serious problem. You will be painfully surprised to know 
that during Diwali and such other holidays, newspapers come 
out with notices warning womer from venturing outdoors even 
to see the illuminations. This one fact should enable you to 
know to what straits we are reduced in this part of the world I 
Neither the writers nor the readers of such warnings have any 
sense of shame that they should have to be issued.-" 

Another Punjabi girl to whom I gave the letter to 
read, supports the narrative from her own experiences of 
her college days and tells me that what my correspondent 
has related is the common experience of most girls. 

The other letter from an experienced woman relates 
the experiences of her girl friends in Lucknow. They 
are molested in cinema theatres by boys sitting in the 
row behind them, using all kinds of language which I 
can only call indecent. They are stated to resort even 


to practical jokes which have been described by my 
correspondent but which I must not reproduce here. 

If the immediate personal relief was all that was 
needed, no doubt, the remedy that the girl who describes 
herself to be physically weak adopted, i.e. of flinging 
her book at the cyclist, was quite correct. It is an age- 
long remedy. And I have said in these columns that 
when a person wants to become violent, physical 
weakness does not come in the way of its effective use 
even against a physically powerful opponent. And we 
know that in the present age, there have been invented 
so many methods of using physical force that even a 
little girl with sufficient intelligence can deal death and 
destruction. The fashion nowadays is growing of training 
girls to defend themselves in situations, such as the one 
described by my correspondent. But she is wise enough 
to know that even though she was able to make effective 
use for the moment, of the book she had in her hand 
as a weapon of defence, it was no remedy for the 
growing evil. In the cases of rude remarks, there need 
be no perturbation but there should be no indifference. 
All such cases should be published in the papers. 
Names of the offenders should be published when they 
are traced. There should be no false modesty about 
exposing the evil. There is nothing like public opinion for 
castigating public misconduct. There is no doubt that, as 
the correspondent says, there is great public apathy about 
such matters. But it is not the public alone that are to blame. 
They must have before them examples of rudeness. Even 
as stealing cannot be dealt with, unless cases of thieving 
are published and followed up, so also is it impossible 
to deal with cases of rude behaviour if they are suppr- 
essed. Crime and vice generally require darkness for 
prowling. They disappear when light plays upon them. 

But I have a fear that the modern girl loves to be 
Juliet to half a dozen Romeos. She loves adventure. My 
correspondent seems to represent the unusual type. The 
modern girl dresses not to protect herself from wind, 
rain and sun but to attract attention. She improves upon 


nature by painting herself and looking extraordinary. 
The non-violent way is not for such girls. I have often 
remarked in these columns that definite rules govern the 
development of the non-violent spirit in us. It is a 
strenuous effort. It marks a revolution in the way of 
thinking and living. If my correspondent and the girls 
of her way of thinking will revolutionize their life in the 
prescribed manner, they will soon find that young men, 
who at all come in contact with them, will learn to respect 
them and to put on their best behaviour in their 
presence. But if perchance they find, as they may, that 
their very chastity is in danger of being violated, they must 
develop courage enough to die rather than yield to the 
brute in man. It has been suggested that a girl who is 
gagged or bound so as to make her powerless even for 
struggling, cannot die as easily as I seem to think. I 
venture to assert that a girl who has the will to resist can 
burst all the bonds that may have been used to render her 
powerless. The resolute will gives her the strength to die. 

But this heroism is possible only for those who 
have trained themselves for it. Those who have not a 
living faith in non-violence will learn the art of ordinary 
self-defence and protect themselves from indecent 
behaviour of unchivalrous youth. 

The great question, however, is why should young men 
be devoid of elementary good manners so as to make 
decent girls be in perpetual fear of molestation from 
them ? I should be sorry to discover that the majority of 
young men have lost all sense of chivalry. But they should, 
as a class, be jealous of their reputation and deal with every 
case of impropriety occuring among their mates. They must 
learn to hold the honour of every woman as dear as that 
of their own sisters and mothers. All the education they 
receive will be in vain if they *do not learn good manners. 

And is it not as much the concern of professors and 
schoolmasters to ensure gentlemanliness among their 
pupils as to prepare them for the subjects prescribed 
for the class-room ? 

Hanjan, 31-12-1938 


I have received a letter written on behalf of eleven 
girls whose names and addresses have been sent to me. 
I give it below with changes that make it more readable 
without in any way altering the meaning: 

"Your comments on the letter of a lady student captioned 
'Students' Shame 1 and published in the Har^an of the 31st 
December, 1938, deserve special attention. The modern girl, it 
seems, has provoked you to the extent that you have disposed 
of her finally as one playing Juliet to half a dozen Romeos. 
This remark which betrays your idea about women in general is 
not very inspiring. 

11 In these days when women are coming out of closed doors to 
help men and take an equal share of the burden of life, it is 
indeed strange that they are still beamed even when they are 
maltreated by men. It cannot be denied that instances can be 
cited where the fault is equally divided. There may be a few 
girls playing Juliets to half a dozen Romeos. But such cases 
presuppose the existence of half a dozen Romeos, moving about 
the streets in quest of a Juliet. And it cannot or should never 
be taken that modern girls are categorically all Juliets or 
modern youths all Romeos. You yourself have come in contact 
with quite a number of modern girls and may have been struck 
by their resolution, sacrifice and other sterling womanly virtues. 

' As for forming public opinion against such misdemeanours as 
pointed out by your correspondent, it is not for girls to do it, not 
so much out of false shame as from its ineffectiveness. 

"But a statement like this from one revered all over the world, 
seems to hold a brief once more for that worn out and unbe- 
coming saying woman is the gate of Hell* 

" From the foregoing remarks, however, please do not conclude 
that modern girls have no respect for you. They hold you in as much 
respect as every young man does. To be hated or pitied is what 
they resent much. They are ready to mend their ways if they are 
really guilty. Their guilt, if any, must be conclusively proved 
before they are anathematized. In this respect they would neither 
desire to take shelter under the covering of 'ladies, please, 1 
nor would they silently stand and allow the judge to condemn 
them in his own way. Truth must be faced; the modern girl or 
'Juliet 1 , as you have called her, has courage enough to face it." 

My correspondents do not perhaps know that I began 
service of India's women in South Africa more than 


forty years ago when perhaps none of them was born. 
I hold myself to be incapable of writing anything dero- 
gatory to womanhood. My regard for the fair sex is too 
great to permit me to think ill of them. She is, what 
she has been described to be in English, the better half 
of mankind. And my article was written to expose 
students' shame, not to advertise the frailties of girls. 
But in giving the diagnosis of the disease, I was bound 
if I was to prescribe the right remedy, to mention all 
the factors which induced the disease. 

The modern girl has a special meaning. Therefore 
there was no question of my restricting the scope of my 
remark to some. But all the girls who receive English 
education are not modern girls. I know many who are 
not at all touched by the 'modern girl 1 spirit. But there 
are some who have become modern girls. My remark 
was meant to warn India's girl students against copying 
the modern girl and complicating a problem that has 
become a serious menace. For, at the time I received 
the letter referred to, I received also a letter from an 
Andhra girl student bitterly complaining of the behaviour 
of Andhra students which, from the description given, 
is worse than what was described by the Lahore girl. 
This daughter of Andhra tells me that the simple dress of 
her girl friends gives them no protection, but they lack 
the courage to expose the barbarism of the boys who 
are a disgrace to the institution they belong to. I 
commend this complaint to the authorities of the Andhra 

The eleven girls I invite to initiate a crusade against 
the rude behaviour of students. God helps only those 
who help themselves. The girls must learn the art of 
protecting themselves against the ruffianly behaviour 
of man. 

n, 4-2-1939 


A sister, sending me a cutting from a well-known 
magazine containing the advertisement of a most 
objectionable book, writes: 

"The enclosed came under my eye when glancing over the 
pages of . I do not know if you get this magazine. 1 do not 
suppose you ever have time to glance at it even if it is sent to 
you. Once before I spoke to you about 'obscene advertisements'. 
I do wish you would write about them some time. That books 
of the type advertised, are flooding the market today is only too 
true, but should responsible journals like encourage their sale? 
My woman's modesty is so utterly repelled by these things that 
1 cannot write to anyone but you. To think that what God has 
given to woman with intent for an express purpose, should be 
advertised for abuse ia-ioo degrading for words. . . .1 wish you 
would write about the responsibility of leading Indian newspapers 
and journals in this respect. This is not the first by any means 
that I could have sent to you for criticism." 

From the advertisement I do not propose to repro- 
duce any portion except to tell the reader that it des- 
cribes as obscenely as it can the suggestive contents 
of the book advertised. Its title is 'Sexual Beauty of the 
Female Form 1 , and the advertising firm tells the reader 
that it will give away free to the buyer two more books 
called 'New Knowledge for the Bride 1 and 'The Sexual 
Embrace or How to Please Your Partner*. 

I fear that in relying on me in any way to affect the 
course of the advertisers of such books or to move the 
editors or publishers from their purpose of making their 
productions yield profits, she relies on a broken reed. 
No amount of appealing by me to the publishers of the 
objectionable books or advertisements of them will be 
of any use. But what I would like to tell the writer of 
the letter and other learned sisters like her, is to come 
out in the open and to do the work that is peculiarly 
and specially theirs. Very often a bad name is given to 
a person and he or she in course of time begins to 
believe in the badness. To call a woman a member of 
'the weaker sex 1 is a libel. In what way is woman the 


weaker sex I do not know. If the implication is that she 
lacks the brute instinct of man or does not possess 
it in the same measure as man, the charge may be 
admitted. But then woman becomes, as she is, the nobler 
sex. If she is weak in striking, she is strong in suffering. 
I have described woman as the embodiment of sacrifice 
and alnmsa. She has to learn not to rely on man to 
protect her virtue or her honour. I do not know a single 
instance of a man having ever protected the virtue of a 
woman. He cannot even if he would. Rama certainly did 
not protect the virtue of Sita, nor the five Pandavas of 
Draupadi. Both these noble women protected their own 
virtue by the sheer force of their purity. No person loses 
honour or self-respect but by his consent. A woman no 
more loses her honour or virtue because a brute renders 
her senseless and ravishes her than a man loses his 
because a wicked woman administers to him a stupefying 
drug and makes him do what she likes. 

It is remarkable that there are no books written in 
praise of male beauty. But why should there always be 
literature to excite the animal passions of man? May it 
be that woman like to live up to the titles that man has 
chosen to bestow upon her ? Does she like to have the 
beauty of her form exploited by man ? Does she like to 
look beautiful of form before man, and why? These are 
questions I would like educated sisters to ask themselves. 
If these advertisements and literature offend them, they 
must wage a relentless war against them and they will 
stop them in a moment. Would that woman will realize 
the power she has latent in her for good, if she has also 
for mischief. It is in her power to make the world more 
livable both for her and her partner, whether as father, 
son or husband, if she .would cease to think of herself 
as weak and fit only to serve as a doll for man to play 
with. If society is not to be destroyed by insane wars 
of nations against nations and still more insane wars on 
its moral foundations, the woman will have to play her 
part not manfully, as some are trying to do, but woman- 
fully. She won't better humanity by vying with man in 


his ability to destroy life mostly without purpose. Let it 
be her privilege to wean the erring man from his error 
which will envelope in his ruin that of woman also. This 
wretched advertisement is merely a straw showing 
which way the wind is blowing. It is a shameless exploi- 
tation of woman. It would not leave alone even "the 
beauty of female form of savage races of the world. 1 ' 

Harijan, 14-11-1936 


A correpondent who saw my article on obscene 
advertisements writes : 

"You can do much in preventing obscene advertisements 
by exposing the names of the papers and magazines which 
advertise such shameless things as you have mentioned." 

I can't undertake the censorship my correspondent 
advises, but I can suggest a better way. If public consci- 
ence is alive, subscribers can write to their respective 
papers, if they contain objectionable advertisements, 
drawing their attention to them and stopping their sub- 
scriptions if the offence is not cured. The reader will 
be glad to know that the sister who complained to me 
about the obscene advertisement wrote also to the editor 
of the offending magazine who expressed his regret for 
the inadvertent admission of the obnoxious advertisement 
and promised to remove it forthwith. 

I am glad also to be able to say that my caution has 
found support from some other papers. Thus the editor 
of the Nispruha of Nagpur writes : 

" I have not only read with great care your article in the 
Har^an regarding obscene advertisements but have given a 
detailed translation of it in the Nisptuha. I have also added a short 
editorial comment thereon. 

I am enclossing a typical advertisement wnich, though not 

obscene, is yet immoral in a sense. The advertisement is obviously 

bogus and it is generally the villager who falls a prey to it. I 

have always refused such advertisements and I am also writing 


to this party similarly. If an editor must supervise the reading 
matter that he will allow, it is as much his duty to supervise the 
advert laments, and no editor can permit his paper to be used by 
people desirous of duping the simple villagers " 
Hanjan, 2-1-1937. 


Major Gen. Sir John McGaw, President, India Office 
Medical Board, is reported by a correspondent to have 
said : 

" Famines in India will recur, in fact India ts today facing 
perpetual famine. Unless something is done to decrease the 
birth rate in India, the country will be leading straight for a 

The correspondent asks what I have to say on this 
grave issue. 

For me, this and some other ways of explaining 
away famines in India, is to divert the attention from the 
only cause of recurring famines in this benighted land. 
I have stated and repeat here that famines of India 
are not a calamity descended upon us from nature 
but is a calamity created by the rulers whether 
through ignorant indifference or whether consciously or 
otherwise does not matter. Prevention against draught 
is not beyond human effort and ingenuity. Such effort 
has not proved ineffective in other countries. In India a 
sustained intelligent effort has never been made. 

The bogey of increasing birth rate is not a new 
thing. It has been often trotted out. Increase in popu- 
lation is not and ought,not to be regarded as a calamity 
to be avoided. Its regulation or restriction by arti- 
ficial methods is a calamity of the first grade whether 
we know it or not. It is bound to degrade the race, if 
it becomes universal, which, thank God, it is never likely 
to be. Pestilence, wars and famines are cursed antidotes 
against cursed lust which is responsible for unwanted 
children. If we would avoid this three-fold curse we 


would avoid too the curse of unwanted children by the 
sovereign remedy of self-control. The evil consequences 
of artificial methods are being seen by discerning men 
even now. Without however encroaching upon the moral 
domain, let me say that propagation of the race rabbit- 
wise must undoubtedly be stopped; but not so as to bring 
greater evils in its train. It should be stopped by methods 
which in themselves ennoble the race. In other words, it 
is all a matter of proper education which would embrace 
every department of life; and dealing with one curse will 
take in its orbit all the others. A way is not to be 
avoided becuse it is upward and therefore uphill. Man's 
upward progress necessarily means ever increasing 
difficulty, which is to be welcomed. 

Hanjan 31-3-19-46. 



The same correspondent from the Patidar Ashram, 
Surat, who put a question to Shri Narahari Parikh, has 
also asked the following: 

"To marry and not have sexual commerce until 
Swaraj is attained is surely an inconsistency. He who 
wants to refrain has no need to marry and vice versa. 
Man is a civilized being. By introducing the institution 
of marriage, he has attempted to establish an ordered 
and just society. If there were no such institution as 
marriage, people would be quarrelling about matters 
of sex. Of course, marriage does not mean sexual license. 
There is room for self-restraint which adorns married 
life. The main purpose of married life is that man arid 
woman should live together and thereby help each other's 
growth. It cannot be gainsaid that in this growth the 
sexual side must be satisfied but with due control. When, 
however, you ask a married couple to pledge them- 
selves to complete sexual restraint until Swaraj is attained, 
it is really putting a premium on hypocrisy. There is 


even danger of moral perversion for the couple con- 
cerned, Exceptional men and women will refuse to be 
bound in marriage. Those who desire marriage are of 
the ordinary run of human beings. It is good that the 
particular bridegroom made it clear later on that he 
could not deny to his wife the right of motherhood. This 
sentence really saved Gandhiji's face. One cannot expect 
anything other than hypocrisy in the guise of celibacy in 

1 'Gandhi ji ought to explain clearly the implications 
of the vow of celibacy until the attainment of Swaraj. 
To me it appears quite ridiculous. 11 

It is deplorable that the correspondent seems to 
take it for granted that the main thing in marriage is 
the satisfaction of the sexual urge. Rightly speaking, the 
true purpose of marriage should be and is intimate 
friendship and companionship between man and woman. 
There is in it no room for sexual satisfaction. That 
marriage is no marriage which takes place for the satis- 
faction of the sex desire. That satisfaction is a denial 
of true friendship. 1 know of English marriages under- 
taken for the sake of companionship and mutual service. 
If a reference to my own married life is not considered 
irrelevant, I may say that my wife and I tested the real 
bliss of married life when we renounced sexual contact, 
and that, in the heyday of youth. It was then that our 
companionship blossomed and both of us were enabled to 
render real service to India and humanity in general. 
I have written about this in my " Experiments with 
Truth". Indeed this self-denial was born out of our great 
desire for service. 

Of course, innumerable marriages take place in 
the natural course of event and such will continue. The 
physical side of married life is given pre-eminence in 
these. Innumerable persons eat in order to satisfy the 
palate; but such indulgence does not therefore become 
one's duty. Very few eat to live but they are the ones 
who really know the law of eating. Similarly, those only 


really marry who marry in order to experience the 
purity and sanctity of the marriage tie and thereby 
realize the divinity within. 

The correspondent does not seem to be conversant 
with the full details of the Tendulkar-Indumati marriage. 
The vow of sexual restraint was an outcome of mature 
deliberation. The text was written in Hindustani. The 
papers put ia their own English translations of it. The 
original provided for sexual intercourse if the wife 
desired progeny. This much is certain that both desired 
to observe restraint even after marriage. The union was 
for promotion of joint service. They had known each 
other for many years. Shri Indumati's parents gave their 
consent to this marriage after much testing. Then jail 
life prolonged the agony. Both parties as well as their 
elders were keen that the ceremony should take place 
in Sevagram Ashram, where Shri* Indumati had lived 
for some time and derived solace. I am unaware of 
their whereabouts today. I have no reason to suspect 
hypocrisy in the transaction. But even if it is discovered, 
it would not prove that the vow of br.hmackarya in 
married life is at fault. The fault lies in hypocrisy. An 
English poet has well said, "Hypocrisy is an ode to 
virtue". Wherever there are true coins, counterfeit ones 
will also be found. Where there is virtue, there will be 
hypocrisy, i.e. vice masquerading as virtue. How tragic 
and surprising that a virtuous action should be sought 
to be stopped because of the fear of hypocrisy ! 

Hanjan, 7-7-1946 


Readers must have noticed that last week I started 
writing for the Hanjan. How long I shall be able to 
continue it, I do not know. God's will be done in this 
as in other things. 

When I think of it, the circumstances under which I 
stopped writing for the Harijan have not altered. Pyarelalji 
is far away from me and in my opinion is doing very 
important work in Noakhali. He is taking part in what 
I have called Aiahayagna. Parsuramji, the English typist 
who had become used to the work has gone toAhmedabad 
of his own choice to help Jivanji. Kanu Gandhi was of 
much help, but he is also taking part in the Mahavagna 
of Noakhali. Most of the other helpers are also unable 
to help under the stress of circumstances or other causes. 
To resume writing for the Hanjan under these adverse 
conditions would be ordinarily considered madness. But 
what appears unpractical from the ordinary standpoint 
is feasible under divine guidance. I believe I dance to 
the divine tune. If this is delusion, I treasure it. 

Who is this Divinity ? I would love to discuss the 
question; only not today. 

The question that is foremost with us all, I discuss 
every evening after the prayer. This writing will come 
before the readers after seven days. This interval would 
be considered too long in connection with the pressing 
problem. Therefore, in these columns for the moment, 
I must confine myself to things of eternal value. One 
such is brahmachaiya. The world seems to be running 
after things of transitory value. It has no time for the 
other. And yet when one thinks a little deeper, it be- 
comes clear that it is the things eternal that count in 
the end. 

What is brah.nacharyi? It is the way of life which 
leads us to Brahma (God). It includes full control over 
tha process of reproduction. The control must be in 


thought, word and deed. If the thought is not under 
control, the other two have no value. There is a saying 
in Hindustani: I( He whose heart is pure has all the puri- 
fying waters of the Ganges in his house. 11 For one whose 
thought is under control, the other is mere child 'splay. 
The brahmachari of my conception will be healthy and 
will easily live long. He will not even suffer from so 
much as a headache. Mental and physical work will not 
cause fatigue. He is ever bright, never slothful. Outward 
neatness will be an exact reflection of the inner. He 
will exhibit all the attributes of the steadfast one described 
in the Gita. It need cause no worry if not one person 
is met with answering the description. 

Is it strange that one who is able completely to con- 
serve and sublimate the vital fluid which has the poten- 
tiality of creating human beings, should exhibit all the 
attributes described above ? Who can measure the crea- 
tive strength of such sublimation, one drop of which has 
the potentiality of bringing into being a human life ? 
Patanjali has described five disciplines. It is not possible 
to isolate any one of these and practise it. It may be 
posited in the case of Truth, because it really includes 
the other four. And for this age the five have been 
expanded into eleven. Acharya Vinoba has put them 
in the form of a Marathi verse : They are non-violence, 
truth, non-stealing, bmhmacharya, non-possession, bread 
labour, control of the palate, fearlessness, equal regard 
for all religions, swadeshi and removal of untouchability. 

All these can be derived from Truth. But life is 
complex. It is not possible to enunciate one grand 
principle and leave the rest to follow of itself. Even 
when we know a proposition, its corollaries have to be 
worked out. 

It is well to bear in mind that all the disciplines 
are of equal importance. If one is broken, all are. There 
seems to be a popular belief amongst us that breach of 
truth or non-violence is pardonable. Non-stealing and 
non-possession are rarely mentioned. We hardly 
recognize the necessity of observing them. But a fancied 


breach of brahmacharya excites wrath and worse. There 
must be something seriously wrong with a society in 
which values are exaggerated and underestimated. 
Moreover, to use the word brahmachaiya in a narrow 
sense is to detract from its value. Such detraction 
increases the difficulty of proper observance. When it 
is isolated, even the elementary observance becomes 
difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, it is essential that 
all the disciplines should be taken as one. This enables 
one to realize the full meaning and significance of 
Hanjan 8-6-1947 



Let us ask ourselves what walls should be erected 
to protect brahmacharya of which I wrote last week. The 
answer seems clear. It is not brahmacharya that needs 
Walls of protection. To say this is easy enough and 
sounds sweet. But it is difficult to understand the import 
of the statement and more so to act accordingly. 

It is true that he who has attained perfect brahmacharya 
does not stand in need of protecting walls. But the 
aspirant undoubtedly needs them, even as a young 
mango plant has need of a strong fence round it. A 
child goes from its mother's lap to the cradle and from 
the cradle to the push-cart, till he becomes a man who 
has learnt to walk without aid. To cling to the aid when 
it is needless is surely harmful. 

I made it clear last week that brahmacharya is one 
of the eleven observances. It follows, therefore, that the 
real aid to brahmacharya are the remaining ten observances. 
The difference between them and the walls of protection 
is that the latter are temporary, the former permanent. 
They are an integral part of brahmacharya. 

Brahmadiarya is a mental condition. The outward 
behaviour of a man is at once the sign and proof of the 


inner state. He who has killed the sexual urge in him 
will never be guilty of it in any shape or form. However 
attractive a woman may be, her attraction will produce 
no effect qn the man without the urge. The same rule 
applies to woman. But he or she who has not conquered 
lust should not turn the eyes even towards a sister or 
a brother or a daughter or a son. This advice I have 
given to friends who have profited by it. 

As for myself I have to admit with great shame that 
while the eight of women had ceased to rouse any sexual 
urge in me in South Africa, in the early days of my 
return to India, past recollections roused the urge against 
which I had to battle fairly hard. The same is true of 
the vague fear which is so unbecoming in man. 

I was cowardly by nature. I was frightened to sleep 
in the dark. To sleep alone in a room was an act of 
bravery for me. I hope I have lost that cowardliness. Yet I 
do not know what would be my state if I lost my way 
and had to wander alone in a thick forest on a dark 
night and if I were to forget that God was ever with 
me. If this childhood's fear has not completely gone 
from me, it would be certainly more difficult for me to 
be fearless in a lonely jungle than to control the sex urge. 

There are certain rules laid down in India for the 
would-be brahmachan. Thus he may not live among 
women, animals and eunuchs, he may not teach a woman 
only or even a group, he may not sit on the same mat 
as a woman, he may not look at any part of a woman's 
body, he may not take milk, curds, ghee or any fatty 
substance nor indulge in baths and oily massage. I read 
about these when I was in South Africa. There I came in 
touch with some men and women who, while they 
observed brahmacharya, never knew that any of the 
above-named restraints were necessary. Nor did I observe 
them and I was none the worse for the non-observance, 
I did give up milk, ghee and other animal substances but 
for different reasons. I failed in this attempt after two 
or three years after my return to India. But if today I 
could find any effective vegetable substitute for milk 


and ghee, I would gladly renounce all animal products. 
But this is another story, 

A perfect brahmachan never loses his vital fluid. On 
the contrary, he is able to increase it day by day and, 
what is more, he conserves it; he will, therefore, never 
become old in the accepted sense and his intellect will 
never be dimmed. 

It appears to me that even the true aspirant does 
not need the above-mentioned restraints. Brahmacharya 
is not a virtue that can be cultivated by outward restraints. 
He who runs away from a necessary contact with a 
woman, does not understand the full meaning of 

Let not the reader imagine for one moment that 
what I have written is to serve as the slightest 
encouragement to life without the law of real restraint. 
Nor is there room in any honest attempt for hypocrisy. 

Self-indulgence and hypocrisy are sins to be avoided. 

The true brahmachan will shun false restraints. He 
must create his own fences according to his limitations, 
breaking them down when he feels that they are unne- 
cessary. The first thing is to know what true brahmacharya 
is, then to realize its value and lastly to try to. cultivate 
this priceless virtue. I hold that true service of the 
country demands this observance. 

Hanjan, 15-6-1947. 


" I have developed a curious mentality about the relations 
between men and women. I believe in certain checks upon these. 
Yet my condition is very like that of a man suspended in mid- 
air. I often feel that if these relations were more natural than 
they are. probably there would be less smfulness. Yet something 
within me tells me that every touch, be it ever so superficial, 
is bound to lead to the eruption of animal passion. When one 
examines the court cases here even about brother and sister or 
even father and daughter, the beginning seems to have been 
quite innocent. In my opinion the glow of mere touch drags down 
inside of a month, even a week, one who is not endowed with 
extra purity. A good man may take even ten years but he is sure 
to go down the incline of vice. There is a constant conflict 
between the habit which we have inherited and the study of 
modernist books The question often arises can society altogether 
abjure contact between the sexes ? I have not been able to 
come to a decision, Such in short is my sorry plight." 

This is the usual state of many youths and young 
women. There is only one way for such young people. 
They have to avoid all contact of the opposite sex. The 
checks and restraints described in our books were the 
result of experience gained during those times. They 
were, no doubt, necessary for the writers and their 
readers. Today every aspirant has to pick out from 
them the necessary items and add new ones which 
experience may make necessary. If we draw a circle 
round the goal to be reached, we shall find many 
ways leading to the goal, each one according to 
his needs. 

An aspirant who may not know his own mind will 
certainly fail if he blindly copies another. 

Having said so much by way of caution, I must add 
that to find the true way to brahmacharya through a study 
of court cases and erotic literature is as fruitless as the 
effort to find the proverbial flower in the heavens above. 
The true way is not to be found in English law courts 
or in the novels. They have their use in their limited 


field, but they are of no use to the aspirant after 
brahmacharya. English men and women who tread the 
difficult path are not afflicted by the imaginings of the 
correspondent quoted above. Those whom I have in 
mind have their God enthroned in their hearts. They 
are neither self-deceived nor would they deceive others. 
To them their sisters and mothers are ever thus and 
for them all women are in the place of sisters and 
mothers. It never occurs to them that every contact with 
them is sinful or that it is fraught with danger They 
see in all women the same God they see in themselves. 
It will betray lack of humility to say that such specimens 
do not exist because we have not come across them. 
Lack of belief in the possibility would also amount to 
lowering tha standard of brahmacharya. There is as much 
error in saying that there is no God because we have 
not seen Him face to face or because we have not met 
men who have had that experience, as there is in 
rejecting the possibilities of brahmacharya because our 
own evidence is to the contrary. 



The correspondent from whose letter I had quoted 
the other day writes : 

11 1 entirely agree with the opinion you have expressed on 
the views set forth in a letter I wiote eleven years ago. 
Nevertheless, I lacked the courage to act up to them I often 
say to myself, Why enter the black hole at all ? ' In spite of 
your presenting society with the ideal man of your imagination 
for its own good, it seems to me that that good would be better 
served by keeping intact the restraints handed down by men 
of expei ience. It is true that sex-consciousness should be removed. 
It is also true that the feeling of ownership of women should 
likewise go. But in propagating these fundamental rules, persons 
have been known to have damaged our society to a great extent. 
It seems to me to be dangerous. X objects even to sitting on 
the same mat with women. He may be an example of faith in 
our old wisdom. Nevertheless, the idea is not to be lightly set 
aside. The sage advice of the Gita> that whatever the great in a 
society do, common people will follow, is unforgettable. 
Therefore, it seems to me that it is wisdom for those who have 
reached a higher state to act in accordance witn the capacity 
of those many who belong to a lower state and this they will 
do, in order to avoid the risk of the lower state people resorting 
to thoughtless imitation. I admit, however, one apt argument in 
defence of your position, viz., that if there was nobody to 
demonstrate the feasibility of the higher state, society would 
never develop faith in that state. Therefore, someone has got 
to demonstrate the feasibility of reaching the high state. I seem 
to reach the conclusion that every great person has got to model 
his behaviour after due appreciation of the pros and cons. " 

I like the above criticism. Everyone should learn 
how to measure his own weakness. He, who, knowing 
his own weakness, imitates the strong, is bound to fail. 
Hence have I contended that everyone should construct 
his own restraints. 

I do not think that X goes so far as to object to squat- 
ting on the same mat as women. I should be surprised 
if your statement proved true. I could not appreciate 
such prohibition. I hive never known him to defend it. 

I can only detect ignorance in likening woman to 
the black hole. The very thought is insulting to both 


man and woman. May not her son sit side by side with 
his mother or the man share the same bench in a train 
with his sister ? He who suffers excitement through such 
juxtaposition is surely worthy of pity. 

Although I believe that for the sake of social good 
one should abandon many things, I feel that there is 
room for wise discretion even in the observance of 
such" restraints. In Europe there is a society of men 
which advocates stark nakedness. I was asked to join 
that society and I refused to do so. My objection was 
that the proposition was intolerable and that unless a 
measure of self-control had become an established fact, 
the exhibition of nakedness was not desirable. This I 
said although I believe that theoretically speaking, there 
is nothing harmful in both the sexes going about in 
utter nakedness. It is said that in their state of innocence 
Adam and Eve had not even a fig leaf to cover their 
nakedness. But immediately they became aware of their 
nakedness, they began to cover themselves and were 
hurled from Paradise. Are we not in that inherited fallen 
state ? If we were to forget that, we would surely harm 
ourselves. I consider this an instance of observing 
prohibition for the sake of social good. 

Contrarywise, for the very sake of society it was 
just *and proper to give up untouchability although it 
was fashionable among people of accepted merit. 
Marriage of nine-year-old girls used to be defended 
on the ground of social good. So was prohibition against 
crossing the seas. Such instances can be multiplied. 
Every custom has to be examined on its own merits. 

Restraints must not be such as to perpetuate sex- 
consciousness. In most of our daily transactions such 
consciousness is absent. Such occasion, so far as I am 
aware, is only one. If the consciousness afflicted us the 
whole day long, we should be considered to have a corrupt 
mind and such a mind is not conducive to social welfare. 
If the villagers were continuously sex-conscious, they 
would be useless for advancement of self and society. 

Harijan 27-7-1947. 


During Gandhiji's Bengal iour, while answering 
questions in one of the workers 1 meetings, he said that 
a woman who really and truly prepared her children 
for the service of the motherland, need not do anything 
more. A friend interpreted this remark as a confirmation 
of the popular belief that woman's one duty was to 
look after the home and bring up the children properly. 
Gandhi ji laughed and said : "People always interpret 
things in the way that suits them. Men and women given 
to animal enjoyment can never prepare their children 
for the service of the motherland. It is only those whose 
law of life is self-control that can do so and such will 
always find time for service outside the domestic sphere." 

He holds strong views against birth control with 
the help of contraceptives. ' 'Contraceptives, >f he says, 
"are an insult to womanhood. The difference between 
a prostitute and a woman using contraceptives is only 
this that the former sells her body to several men, 
the latter sells it to one man. Man has no right to touch 
his wife so long as she does not wish to have a child, 
and the woman should have the will power to resist 
even her own husband." 

S. N. 

Hanjan. 5-5-1946 






The annual meeting of the Gandhi Seva Sangh at 
Hubli, disturbed by incessant rain, was important for 
various reasons. I propose to speak of it at length in 
the next issue. I am going to confine myself in this 
issue to the two marriages and sacred thread ceremonies 
we had under the blessings of the members of the 
Sangh. For me it is a matter of personal gratefulness that 
prompts me to write these lines. But there were about 
these apparently private ceremonies things in which the 
public are likely to be interested, and I therefore make 
no apology for occupying a part of these columns. 

The Sangh itself is an ethical body a body of 
public workers who approach the problems of work in 
a predominantly religious spirit, and their discussions 
are always full of self-introspection. It was in the fitness 
of things that Gandhiji decided to perform the marriage 
ceremonies of his grand-daughter and my sister and 
the thread cejremonies of my brother and son under 
the auspices of the Sangh. Nothing could contribute 
better to the understanding, on the part of the young 
parties concerned, of the seriousness of the life on 
which they ware about to embark, above all to a 
conviction that the ceremonies were no festivities but 
solemn consecration ceremonies. All outward show and 
ceremony was eschewed, no invitations to friends or 
relations were issued, and the parties came in the 
conviction that they would prize much more the blessings 
of a body of serious-minded, self-sacrificing public 
workers than the blessings of relations and friends 
which they should get as a matter of course. The 
ceremonies were performed by two Shastns. Shastri 
Rambhatji of Belgaum and Shastri Laxman Joshi of the 
famous Prajna Pathashala at Wai, who offered their 
services without the thought of a reward. They knew 
the meaning of every part of the ceremonies, and Shri 


Laxman Shastri translated every mantra in very lucid 
Hindi and insisted on the parties understanding every 
word that they repeated. 

Contrary to his wont, Gandhiji did not address his 
remarks to the married couples in the presence of the 
audience, but privately. But they will interest all married 
couples and I summarize them here as best I can. 

11 You must know," he said, "that I do not believe 
in ceremonies except to the extent that they awaken in 
us a sense of duty. I have had that attitude of mind 
ever since I began to think for myself. The mantras 
you have repeated and the vows you have taken, were 
all in Sanskrit, but they were all translated for you. We 
had the Sanskrit text because I know that the Sanskrit 
word has a power under the influence of which one 
would love to come. 

"One of the wishes expressed by the husband 
during the ceremony is that the bride may be the 
mother of a good and healthy son. The wish did not shock 
me. It does not mean that procreation is obligatory, but it 
means that if progeny is wanted, marriage performed 
in a strictly religious spirit is essential. He who does 
not want a child need not marry at all. Marriage for 
the satisfaction of sexual appetite is no marriage. It is 
vyabhichara concupiscence. Today's ceremony, there- 
fore, means that the sexual act is permitted only when 
there is a clear desire by both for a child. The whole 
conception is sacred. The act has therefore to be 
performed prayerfully. It is not preceded by the usual 
courtship designed to provide sexual excitement and 
pleasure. Such union may only be once in a life-time, 
if no other child is desired. Those who are not morally 
and physically healthy, have no business to unite, and 
if they do, it is vyabhichara concupiscence. You must 
unlearn the lesson, if you have learnt it before, that 
marriage is for the satisfaction of animal appetite. It is 
a superstition. The whole ceremony is performed in 
the presence of the sacred fire. Let the fire make ashes 
of all the lust in you. 


"I would also ask you to disabuse yourselves of 
another superstition which is rampant nowadays. It is 
being said that restraint and abstinence are wrong and 
free satisfaction of the sexual appetite and free love is the 
most natural thing. There was never a more ruinous 
superstition. You may be incapable of attaining the ideal, 
your flesh may be weak; but do not therefore lower 
the ideal, do not make irreligion your religion. In your 
weak moments remember what I am telling you. The 
remembrance of this solemn occasion may well steady 
and restrain you. The very purpose of marriage is 
restraint and sublimation of the sexual passion. If there 
is any other purpose, marriage is no consecration, but 
marriage for other purposes besides having progeny. 

"You are being united in marriage as friends and 
equals. If the husband is called wamm, the wife is 
swammi each master of the other, each helpmate of 
the other, each co-operating with the other in the perfor- 
mance of life's tasks and duties. To you, boys, I would 
say that if you are gifted with better intellects and richer 
emotions, infect the girls with them. Be their true teachers 
and guides, help them and guide them, but never hinder 
them or misguide them. Let there be complete harmony 
of thought and word and deed between you, may you 
have no secrets -from each other, may you be one in soul. 

11 Don't be hypocrites, don't break your health in the 
vain effort of performing what may be impossible for 
you. Restraint never ruins one's health. What ruins one's 
health is not restraint but outward suppression. A really 
self-restrained person grows every day from strength 
to strength and from peace to more peace. The very 
first step in self-restraint is the restraint of thoughts. 
Understand your limitations and do only as much as you 
can. I have placed the ideal before you the right 
angle. Try as best you can to attain the right angle. 
But if you fail, there is no cause for grief or shame. I have 
simply explained to you that marriage is a consecration, 
a new birth, even as the sacred thread ceremony is a 
consecration and a new binh. Let not what I have told 


you alarm you or weaken you. Always aim at complete 
harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at 
purifying your thoughts and everything will be well. 
There is nothing more potent than thought. Deed follows 
word and word follows thought. The world is the result 
of a mighty thought, and where the thought is mighty and 
pure, the result is always mighty and pure. I want you 
to go hence armed with the armour of a noble ideal, 
and I assure you no temptation can harm you, no 
impurity can touch you. 

1 ' Remember the various ceremonies that have been 
explained to you. Look at the simple-looking ceremony 
of madhuparka. The whole world is full of wad/>u sweet 
nectar or honey if only you will par take of it after the 
rest of the world has taken its share of it. It means 
1 enjoyment by means of renunciation.' 

1 ' But if there is no desire for progeny, should there 
be no marriage?" asked one of the bridegrooms. 

11 Certainly not. I do not believe in Platonic marriages. 
In certain rare cases, men are known to have married 
women to protect the latter and not for any physical 
union at all. But those cases are very rare indeed. You 
must read all that I have written on pure married life. 
What I read in the Mahabharata is daily growing upon 
me. Vyasa is described therein as having performed 
myoga He is not described as beautiful, but he was the 
reverse of it. His form is represented as terrible, he 
made no amorous gestures, but he smeared his whole 
body with ghee before he performed the union. He 
performed the act not for lust but for procreation. The 
desire for a child is perfectly natural, and once the desire 
is satisfied, there should be no union, 

"Manu has described the first child as dhanraja 
born out of a sense of duty, arid children born after 
the first as kamaja -carnally born. That gives in a 
nutshell the law of sexual relations. And what is God 
but the Law ? And to obey God is to perform the Law. 
Remember that you were thriced asked to repeat : ' I 
will not transgress the Law in any respects. 1 Even if we 


had a handful of men and women prepared to abide by 
the Law, we should have a race of men and women 
stalwart and true. 

"Remember that I really came to enjoy my married 
life after I ceased to look at Ba sexually. I took the vow of 
abstinence when I was in the prime of youth and health, 
when I was young enough to enjoy married life in the 
accepted sense of the term. I saw in a flash that I was 
born, as we all are, for a sacred mission. I did not 
know this when I was married. But on coming to my 
sense I felt that I must see that the marriage subserved 
the mission for which I was born. Then indeed did I 
realize true dharm^ True happiness came into our lives 
only after the vow was taken. Ba, though she looks frail, 
has a fine constitution and toils from morning until night. 
She would never have done so, had she continued to 
be the object of my lust. 

"And yet I woke up late in the sense that I had lived 
the married life for some years. You are lucky enough 
to be aroused in good time. Circumstances, when I was 
married, were as unpropitious as they could be. For you 
they are as propitious as they could be. There was one 
thing, though, that I possessed and that carried me 
through. It was the armour of truth. That protected 
me and saved me. Truth has been the very foundation 
of my life. Brahmacharya and ahimsa were born later out 
of truth. Whatever, therefore, you do, be true to yourselves 
and to the world. Hide not your thoughts. If it is shameful 
to reveal them, it is more shameful to think them," 

Harijan, 24-4- 1937. 



Quite a striking contrast to the old peasant who had 
brought his all in the service of the poor was Mrs. 
How-Martyn, the birth control enthusiast from England, 
who had brought her gospel for the relief of the poor in 
India and who came to convert Gandhiji or be converted. 
Of course, she has come to India for the first time and 
has hardly seen anything of the poor. So she talked 
of her experience of the British slums and put in a 
strong plea for the 'poor woman 1 who had tD submit 
to the strong man. 

On her very first premise Gandhiji joined issue. 
"There is no poor woman. Poor woman is mightier than 
man, and I am quite prepared to demonstrate it to you 
if you come to the villages of India. Any woman there 
would tell you that, if she did not want it, there was no 
man born of woman who could compel her. I can say this 
from my own experience in relation to my wife, and 
mine is no solitary instance. If the will to die rather 
than to yield is there, no monster can make the woman 
yield. No, it is a mutual affair. Men and women both 
are a mixture of the brute and the divine, and if we 
can subdue the brute, it is well and good." 

"But what is the woman to do, if the man for the sake 
of having not more children goes to another woman?" 

"So now you are shifting your own ground. If you 
misconceive your' premises, you are bound to come to 
wrong conclusions. Don't assume things and try to unman 
man and unwoman woman. Let me understand the basis of 
your gospel. When I said your birth control propaganda 
was sufficient introduction, there was some seriousness 
behind the joke, for, I know that there are some men and 
women who think that in birth control lies our salvation. 
Let me, therefore, understand the basis from you." 

"I do not see in it the salvation of the world," said 
Mrs. HoV-Martyn, "but what I say is that without some 


form of birth control there is no salvation. You would 
do it in one way, I would do it in another. I advocate 
your method as well, but not in all cases. You seem to 
regard a beautiful function 'as something objectionable 
Two animals are nearest to the divine when they are 
going to create new life. There is something very 
beautiful in the act. 11 

"Here again you are labouring under a confusion, " 
said Gandhiji. "The creation of a new life is nearest the 
divine, I agree. All I want is that one should approach 
that act in a divine way. That is to say, man and 
woman must come together with no other desire than 
that of creating a new life. But if they come together 
merely to have a fond embrace, they are nearest the 
devil. Man unfortunately forgets that he is nearest the 
divine, hankers after the brute instinct ia himself and 
becomes less than the brute." 

"But why must you cast aspersion on the brute?" 

"I do not. The brute fulfils the law of his own nature. 
The lion in his majesty is a noble creature and he has 
a perfect right to eat me up; but I have none to develop 
paws and pounce upon you. Then I lower myself and 
become worse than the brute." 

"I dm sorry ," said Mrs. How-Martyn, "I have 
expressed myself very badly. I confess that in a majority 
of cases it is not going to be their salvation, but a factor 
which will conduce to higher life. You understand what 
I mean, though I am afraid I have not been able to 
make myself quite clear." 

11 Ohr, no. I do not want to take any undue advantage 
of you. But I want you to understand my viewpoint. Do 
not run away with misconceptions. Man must choose 
either of the two courses, the upward or the downward; 
but as he has the brute in him, he will more easily 
choose the downward course than the upward, especially 
when the downward course is presented to him in a 
beautiful garb. Man easily capitulates when sin is present- 
ed in the garb of virtue, and that is what Marie Stopes 
and others are doing. If I were to popularize the religion 


of indulgence, I know that men would simply clutch at 
it. I know that, if people like you in selfless zeal cried 
themselves hoarse upholding your doctrine, you might 
even ride to apparent victory; but I also know that you 
will ride to certain death, of course totally unconscious 
of the mischief you are doing. The downward instinct 
requires no advocacy, no argument. It is tlfere embodied 
in them, and unless you regulate and control it, there 
is danger of disease and pestilence." 

Mrs. How-Martyn, who until now seemed to accept 
the distinction between the divine and the devilish, 
contended that there was really none and that they were 
much more allied than people imagined. That really is 
the thing at the back of all birth control philosophy, and 
the enthusiasts forget that that is their Achilles' heel, 

"So you think the devil and the divine are the same? 
Do you believe in the sun? And if you do, don't you 
think you must believe in the shadow?" asked Gandhiji. 
M Why should you call 'shadow 1 devil?" 
"You may call it 'no-God 1 , if you like.' 1 
"I do not think there is no-God in the shadow. There 
is life everywhere." 

"There is a thing like absence of life. Do you know 
that Hindus will reduce the body of the dearest one to 
ashes as soon as life in it is extinct ? There is an essential 
unity in all life, but there is diversity, too, and one has 
to penetrate it and find the unity behind but not by 
intellect, as you are trying to do. Where there is truth, 
there must be untruth; where there is light, there must 
be shadow. You cannot realize the wider consciousness, 
unless you subordinate completely reason and intellect, 
and the body, too." 

Mrs. How-Martyn looked puzzled, and time was fast 
running against her. But Gandhiji said : "No. I am 
prepared to give you more time. But for that you must 
come to Wardha and stay with me. I am as great an 
enthusiast as you, and you must not leave India until 
you have converted me or converted yourself. 11 


As I listened to the rapturous discourse, which other 
engagements had to bring to an end, I was reminded 
of the great words of St. Francis of Assisi: "Light looked 
down and beheld darkness. 'Thither will I go, ' said 
Light. Peace looked down and beheld War; 'Thither 
will I go, ' said Peace. Love looked down and beheld 
Haired; 'Thither will I go, 1 said Love and the Word 
was made Flesh and dwelt among us." * 

Hanjan, 1-2-1935. 



But how the villager and the villages haunt Gandhiji's 
days and dreams, will appear most vividly in a discourse 
that he had with Swami Yogananct who has just returned 
home after a long stay in America. On his way to Ranchi 
he halted here for a couple of days and had long con- 
versations with Gandhiji. His mission in America was 
purely spiritual and he said he had tried everywhere 
to show by preaching and example the spiritual message 
of India to the world, It is his conviction that ' Crucified 
India will mean the salvation of the world. 1 

Two problems he wanted to discuss with Gandhiji 
the problem of Evil and the problem of Birth Control. 
He had seen a good deal of the seamy side of American 
life and knew Judge Lindsay intimately. . . . 

' I shall now change the subject, 1 said the Swami. 
1 You would prefer self-control to birth control ? ' 

1 1 think artificial birth control or birth control ac- 
cording to methods suggested today and recommended 
in the West is suicidal. When I say ' suicidal', I do not 
mean resulting in the extinction .of the race; I mean 
suicidal in a higher sense of the term, that is to say, 
these methods make man lower than the brute; they are 
immoral. 1 


1 But how long are we to tolerate indiscriminate 
procreation ? I know a man who used to purchase a 
seer of milk, and went on diluting it with water in order to 
divide it between his children whose number increased 
every year. Don't you think this was a sin ? ' 

1 It is a sin to bring forth unwanted children, but 
I think it is a greater sin to avoid the consequences of 
one's own action. It simply unmans man.' 

' What then is the most practical method of telling 
man this truth ? ' 

I The most practical method is to live the life of 
self-control. Example is better than precept.' 

' But the West asks us, " Why is it that you have 
greater child mortality and lower life average than we, 
though you regard yourselves as more spiritual than the 
West ? " Do you believe in many children, Mahatmaji ? ' 

I 1 believe in no children. ' 

1 Then the whole race will be extinct. ' 
1 It won't be extinct, it will be transformed into 
something better. But it can never happen, for we have 
inherited from eternity the sex instinct from our proge- 
nitors. It means a tremendous effort to check this 
habit of ages, and yet it is a simple effort. Absolute 
renunciation, absolute brahmacharya is the ideal state. 
If you dare not think of it, marry by ail means, but even 
then live a life of self-control. ' 

I Have you any working method to teach this to 
the masses ? ' 

' It is, as I said a moment ago, to attain complete 
self-control and go and live that life amongst the masses. 
A life of self-restraint and denial of all luxuries cannot 
but have its effect on the masses, There is an indisso- 
luble connection between self-control and the control 
of the palate. The man who observes brahmacharya will 
be controlled in every one of his acts and will be humble. 1 

I 1 see what you mean, ' said the Swami. ' The 
masses do not know the happiness of self-control and 
we have to teach them that. But what about the argument 
of the West I referred to before ? ' 


1 1 do not think that we are more spiritually-minded 
than the West. If we were, we should not have fallen 
so low. But because the average life of a Westerner is 
much higher than ours, it does not prove the spirituality 
of the West. Whoever is spiritually-minded must show 
a better, not necessarily a longer, life. ' 

Hanjan, 7-9-1935 




Since the time Mrs. Margaret Sanger, the famous 
leader of the Birth Control movement, paid a visit to 
Wardha, I have seen several different aspects of her. 
First as she appeared to me there during those remark- 
able -interviews with Gandhiji - interviews in which 
she appealed to Gandhiji as a great moral teacher " to 
advise something practical, something that can be applied 
to solve the problem of loo frequent child-bearing, " 
11 to give some message for those who are not yet sure 
but who are anxious to limit their families. " She seemed, 
during those conversations into which Gandhiji poured 
his whole being, desperately anxious to find out some 
point of contact with Gandhiji, to find out the utmost 
extent to which he could go with her. And he did 
indicate the extent. Her second aspect is revealed in her 
article in the Illustrated Weekly or India in which she 
ridicules what she calls Gandhiji's " amazing boast " of 
having known the experiences and the aspirations of 
thousands of women in India. " Mrs. Sanger approached 
Gandhiji in Wardha for solution of a tough problem, 
because, as she herself said, " there were thousands, 
millions, who regard your word as that of a saint, " 
and yet she ridicules his claim to know these women's 
aspirations and experiences, " thousands of whom march- 
ed to iail at his word. All she is concerned about in 


this article is to prove that Gandhiji does not know the 
women of India, She utters not a word about the points 
of agreement she sought at the interview, and the extent 
to which Gandhiji said he was prepared to go with her. 
The third aspect is revealed in an address on " Woman 
of the Future " that she delivered before the World 
Fellowship of Faiths. I shall come to this later in my article. 


To come to the interview. As I have already said, 
Gandhiji poured his whole being into his conversation. 
He revealed himself inside out, giving Mrs. Sanger an 
intimate glimpse of his own private life. He also declared 
to her his own limitations, especially the stupendous 
limitation of his own philosophy of life -a philosophy 
that seeks self-realization through self-control, and said 
that from him there could be one solution and one alone. 
11 1 could not recommend the remedy of birth control 
to a woman who wanted my approval. I should simply 
say to her : "My remedy is of no use to you. You must 
go to others for advice. " Mrs. sanger cited some hard 
cases. " I agree, " said Gandhiji, " there are hard cases. 
Else birth control enthusiasts would have no case. 
But I would say, do devise remedies by all means, 
but the remedies should be other than the ones you 
advise. If you and I as moral reformers put our foot 
down on this remedy and said, 'You must fall back on 
other remedies, ' those would surely be found. " Both 
seemed to be agreed that woman should be emancipated, 
that woman should be the arbiter of her destiny. But 
Mrs. Sanger would have Gandhiji work for woman's 
emancipation through her pet device, just as believers 
in violence want Gandhiji to win India's freedom through 
violence, since they saem to be sure that non-violence 
can never succeed. 

She forgets this fundamental difference in her impa- 
tience to prove that Gandhiji does not know the women 
of India. And she claims to prove this on the ground 
that he makes an impossible appeal to the women of 


India the appeal to resist their husbands. Well, this is 
what he said : "My wife I made the orbit of all women. 
In her I studied all women, I came in contact with 
many European women in South Africa, and I knew 
practically every Indian woman there. I worked with 
them. I tried to show them they were not slaves either 
of their husbands or parents, not only in the political 
field but in the domestic as well. But the trouble was 
that some could not resis^theii husbands. The remedy is 
in the hands of women themselves. The struggle is difficult 
for them, and I do not blame them. I blame the men. Men 
have legislated against them. Man has regarded woman 
as his tool. She has learned to be his tool and in the 
end found it easy and pleasurable to be such, because 
when one drags anothor in his fall the descent is easy . . . 
I have felt that during the years still left to me, if I can 
drive home to women's minds the truth that they are 
free, we will have no birth control problem in India. If 
they will only learn to say 'no 1 to their husbands when 
they approach them carnally, I do not suppose all 
husbands are brutes, and if women only know how to 
resist them, all will be well. I have been able to teach 
women who havo come in contact with me how to 
resist their husbands. The real problem is that many do 
not want to resist them ... No resistance bordering 
upon bitterness will be necessary in 99 out oi 100 cases. 
If a wife says to her husband, 'No, I do not want it/ 
he will make no trouble. But she hasn't been taught. 
Her parents in most cases won't teach it to her. There 
are some cases, I know, in which parents have appealed 
to their daughters' husbands not to force motherhood 
on their daughters. And I havp come across amenable 
husbands too. I want woman to learn the primary right 
of resistance. She thinks now that she has not got it." 

What is there in this to show that Gandhiji did not 

know the women of India or did not know women, I 

do not understand. Jesus, who set the seal of his own 

blood upon his precept "Love thine enemy", and 

"Resist not evil", would be held to have uttered the 


precept in ignorance of mankind, simply because we 
are far away from realization of that principle ! 

Mrs. Sanger raises the phantasmagoria of "irritations, 
disputes, and thwarted longings that Mr. Gandhi's 
advice would bring into the home ", of the absence of 
11 loving glances 11 and of "tender good night kisses" 
and of " words of endearment ", forgetting all the while 
that birth control and all its tender or vulgar accompani- 
ments have contributed in America to countless irritations 
and disputes, divorces and woVse. But the America we 
know through books of a realist reformer like Upton 
Sinclair would seem to be different from the America 
that Mrs. Sanger claims to know. She cited cases of 
great nervous and mental breakdowns as a result of 
the practice of self-control. Gandhiji spoke from a 
knowledge of the numerous letters he received every 
mail, when he said to her that " the evidence is all based 
on examination of imbeciles. The conclusions are not 
drawn from the practice of healthy-minded people. The 
people they take for examples, have not lived a life of 
even tolerable continence. These neurologists assume 
that people are expected to exercise self-restraint while 
they continue to lead the same ill regulated life. The 
consequence is that they do not exercise self- restraint 
but become lunatics. I carry on correspondence with 
many of these people and they describe their own 
ailments to me. I simply say that if I were to present 
them wirti this method of birth control ihey would lead 
far worse lives." 

He told her that when she went to Calcutta she would 
be told by those who knew what havoc contraceptives had 
worked among unmarried young men and women. But 
evidently for the purposfe of the conversation, at any 
rate, Mrs. Sanger confined herself to propagation of 
knowledge of birth control among married couples only. 

Mrs. Sanger mocks at what she calls Mr. Gandhi's 
"appalling fear of licentiousness and over-indulgence" 
following upon a life of unrestrained birth control, and 
she pointedly asks : " Has he ever thought that the same 


frequency can occur during the nine months of a woman's 
pregnancy ? " I must say that in advancing this argument 
Mrs. Sanger is less than fair to her own sex. None but 
the most abnormally lewd or suppressed would submit 
to even legitimate sexual advances during pregnancy. 

What was to be done with couples who wanted to 
resist the impulse of sex and yet could not do so ? 


Mrs. Sang^r was thus led on to her apotheosis of 
11 sex-love ", which she said "is a relationship which 
makes for oneness, for completeness between husband 
and wife and contributes to a finer understanding and 
a greater spiritual harmony. 11 An obviously harmless 
proposition, but full of confusion when in the same 
breath one identifies love with lust and then tries to 
separate the one from the other, The distinction that 
Gandhiji drew between love and lust will be evident 
fiom the following extracts from the coversation : 

G. : When both want to satisfy animal passion without 
ha\ing to suffer the consequences of their act it is not 
love, it is lust. But if love is pure, it will transcend 
animal passion and will regulate itself. We have not had 
enough education of the passions. When a husband says, 
"Let us not have children, but let us have relations," 
what is that but animal passion ? If they do not want to 
have more children, they should simply refuse to unite. 
Love becomes lust the moment you make it a means for 
the satisfaction of animal needs. It is just the same with 
food. If food is taken only for pleasure, it is lust. You 
do not take chocolates for the sake of satisfying your 
hunger. You take them for pleasure and then ask the 
doctor for an antidote. Perhaps you will tell the doctor 
that whisky befogs your brain and he gives you an 
antidote. Would it not be better not to take chocolates 
or whisky ? 

Mrs. S. : No. I do not accept the analogy. 

G. : Of course you will not accept the analogy 
because you think this sex expression without desire 


for children is a need of the soul, a contention I do 
not endorse. 

Mrs. S. : Yes, sex expression is a spiritual need 
and I claim that the quality of this expression is more 
important than the result, for, the quality of the relation- 
ship is there regardless of results. We all know that 
the great majority of children are born as an accident, 
without the parents having any desire for conception. 
Seldom are two people drawn together in the sex act 
by their desire to have children. ... Do you think 
it possible for two people who are in love, who are 
happy together, to regulate their sex act only once in 
two years, so that relationship would only take place 
when they wanted a child? Do you think it possible? 

G. : I had the honour of doing that very thing and 
I am not the only one. 

Mrs. Sanger thought it was illogical to contend 
that sex union for the purpose of having children would 
be love, and union for the satisfaction of the sexual 
appetite was lust, for the same act was involved in both. 
Gandhiji immediately capitulated and said he was ready 
to describe all sexual union as partaking of the nature 
of lust. He made the whole thing abundantly clear by 
citing facts from his own life. "I know," he said, "from 
my own experience that as long as I looked upon my 
wife carnally, we had no real understanding. Our love 
did not reach a high plane. There was affection between 
us always, but we came closer and closer the more we 
or rather I became restrained. There never was want 
of restraint on the part of my wife. Very often she would 
show restraint, but she rarely resisted me although she 
showed disinclination very often. All the time I wanted 
carnal pleasure I could not serve her. The moment I bade 
good-bye to a life of carnal pleasure our whole relation- 
ship became spiritual. Lust died and love reigned 
instead. 11 

But Mrs. Sanger probably regards every free 
embrace an act of love and a married life without 
sexual relationship and its blandishments a dull lifeless 


affair. Gandhiji's own personal witness made no 
impression upon her. She dismissed it as that of an 
'idealist', as appears from her veiled sneer at "that 
small group of idealists who have sublimated their sex 
energies into creative action, into the activities of his 
own National Congress." I do not think during all his 
conversation Gandhijieven once referred to the Congress 
or Congressmen. Mrs. Sanger forgets that all moral 
advancement has proceeded on the practfce of a "small 
group of idealists " and that even the apparent progress 
of her own movement depends a lot on the clever way 
in which she idealizes her nostrum and describes it as 
the upward path "demanding of us who inhabit this 
globe all that we possess in intelligence, knowledge, 
courage, vision and responsibility," the road that " leads 
to the fulfilment of human destiny on this planet ! " 


Mrs. Sanger is so impatient to prove that Gandhiji 
is a visionary that she forgets the practical ways and 
means that Gandhiji suggested to her. 

"Must the sexual union take place only three or 
four times in an entire lifetime ? " she asked. 

"Why should people not be taught," replied Gandhiji, 
"that it is immoral to have more than three or four 
children and that after they have had that number they 
should sleep separately ? If they are taught this, it would 
harden into custom. And if social reformers cannot 
impress this idea upon the people, why not a law ? 
If husband and wife have four children, they would 
have had sufficient animal enjoyment. Their love may 
then be lifted to a higher plane. Their bodies have met. 
After they have had the children they wanted, their love 
transforms itself into a spiritual relationship. If these 
children die and they want more, then they may meet 
again. Why must people be slaves of this passion when 
they are not of others ? When you give them education 
in birth control, you tell them it is a duty. You say to 
them that if they do not do this thing, they will interrupt 


their spiritual evolution. You 
After giving them education in iSisth control youtfjp not 
say to them 'thus far and no further 1 . You ask people to 
drink temperately, as though it yy:as possible to remain 
temperate. I know tjtaese temperate -people. 11 

And yet as Mrs. Sander was so dreadfully in earnest 
Gandhiji did mention a remedy which could conceivably 
appeal to hij. That method was the avoidance of sexual 
union during unsafe periods, confining, if ,to the 'safe 1 
period of about ten days during the QlJ&ttU "P 13 * had 
at least an element of self-contr^wl^ip $^|L^ b f 
exercised during the unsafe period. JWofemer this 
appealed to Mrs. Sanger or not I & not know. But 
therein spoke Gandhiji the truth-aaeker. Mrs. Sanger 
has not referred to it anywhere in her interviews or her 
Illustrated Weeklv article. Perhaps if birth controllers were 
to be satisfied with this simple method, the birth control 
^inics and propagandists would find their trade gone. 


But I come to a third aspect of Mrs. Sanger. Her 
address to the World Fellowship of Faiths is most 
revealing. She frankly speaks there on behalf of her 
country where " there are more criminal abortions per- 
formed than in any other country in the world. The 
national total of abortions has been estimated to top 
2,000,000 per year. This total does not include the number 
brought about by drugs or by instruments used by the 
pregnant woman herself. 11 Let it be remembered that 
it is not only the married woman who is thought of 
here. It is the unmarried woman too, and Mrs. Sanger 
would not really mind arming her with contraceptives. 
"The infinitely more complicated problein^or^^tion" 
can be only solved, she says, "by* a' |>r6per f safe, 
dependable means of birth control. In 'the present 
state of society abortions are inevitable, and so birth 
control is also* inevitable i The vicious circle is complete. 
Mrs. Sanger makes a fervent appeal for preventing 
the " misuse ana -tragic waste of the greatest creative 


force within human nature itself. " She forgets that 
contraceptives will provide the most infernal engine of 
that waste and misuse. 

But I have come across in her address a startling 
argument which would take away from the seriousness 
of all her arguments. " Japan is breaking her own record 
for population increase ! The whole crisis in the Far 
East so menacing to the peace of the world at large 
grows out of this ' full speed ahead ' cradle competition 
between Asiatic races. Is it not time for the League of 
Nations or the World Court to turn on this red traffic 
light? Japan's determination to find an outlet for this 
surplus population precipitates the so-called ' undeclared 
war ' against the Chinese, the creation of the puppet 
State of Manchukuo, the breaking of solemn treaties, 
the sowing of the seeds of another World War." 
Another yellow peril ? Is it a humanitarian that speaks 
here, or someone vastly different therefrom ? I wonder. 

Hanjan, 25-1-1936 


Mrs. Sanger has sent me a letter which I must 
publish in fairness to her : 

Dear Mr. Desai, 

In your article giving out the interview between Mr, Gandni 

*and myself you say that in my article in the Illustrated Weekly I 

wrote only on one point of the conversation In this you are 

quite correct That was all I meant to give out or to discuss in 

that article 

May I also say that before I sent the article I read it to a 
dear and loyal friend of yours and Mr. Gandhi's, Muriel Lester, 
who was the one who suggested what you called a "veiled 
sneer ". Please be assured that I have only the highest regard 
and respect for all those brave men and women who are working 
for India's freedom. If you will look up my own record, you 
will find my name among that first group of men and women 
in America who in 1917 organized themselves to help over there 
for the freedom of India here. 

The next point in your article in which I think you are also in 
error is that you seem to indicate that Mr. Gandhi accepted in 



our conversation the method of the Safe Period. I think you will 
look over the typed statement. You will find him saying "It does 
not repel me as the other does," but he did not commit himself 
beyond that, though I pressed for a more definite statement. I 
would not consider it fair to Mr. Gandhi to make the state- 
ments you have given out for publicity. Nor do I think Mr. 
Gandhi would agree to your last paragraph about the propa- 
gandist "trade". That sentence and intimation is not worthy of 
one like yourself who has worked selflessly in a cause for 

The birth control workers have battled and are still working 
selflessly and without remuneration for a cause they consider 
to be a fundamental human right, ana a cause for human 
liberty and progress, and it is unfair, unkind and untrue to play 
to the opposition by making a trite remark which has no founda- 
tion in fact. 

Sincerely yours, 

As regards the "veiled sneer", I gladly and grate- 
fully stand corrected. I must say, however, that the 
generally querulous and flippant tone of her article 
justified me in reading a sneer where I now understand, 
none was meant. 

As regards the other "error", I would request Mrs. 
Sanger to remember that whilst she concerned herself 
with "only one point of the conversation", I could not. 

I do not think that in saying that Gandhiji would tolerate 
the "Safe Period" method because it involved a certain 
measure of self-control, I committed him to a thing he 
would not have liked to. I simply wanted to show 
Gandhiji's readiness to agree with his adversary as 
much as he could. The very reason why he said that 
"the method does not repel me as the other does", 
is of the very essence in this matter. Whereas Mrs. 
Sanger's method leaves one free to indulge oneself all 
the days of the month, this particular one seemed to have 
the credit of imposing on one certain measure of 

I see that Mrs. Sanger resents the suggestion about 

II trade ". I did not mean to attribute any " trade " motives 
to Mrs. Sanger personally. I know that she has fought 


bravely and selflessly for her cause. But there is 
absolutely no untruth in the statement that there is 
altogether too much of unseemly propaganda about birth 
control and all kinds of contraceptives and attractive- 
looking but shoddy literature which is the stock-in-trade 
of the average birth control enthusiast. All this serves 
but to vitiate the cause which Mrs. Sanger is espousing 

Haiijan, 22-2-1936 


Gandhiji next dwelt on a topic on which he had 
spoken in the Subjects Committee, but could not have 
any resolution thereon as he did not find the proper 
atmosphere. The occasion was a letter addressed to 
him by the ladies in charge of a women's movement 
called Jyoti Sanzh. The letter enclosed copy of a resolution 
they had passed condemning the present-day tendencies 
in literature regarding the presentation of women. 
There was, Gandhiji felt, considerable force in the 
complaint, and he said : "The gravamen of their charge 
is that the present-day writers give an entirely false 
picture of women. They are exasperated at the sickly 
sentimentality with which you delineate them, at the 
vulgar way in which you dwell on their physical form. 
Does all their beauty and their strength lie in their 
physical form, in their capacity to please the lustful eye 
of men ? Why, the writers of the letter justly ask, should 
we be eternally represented as meek, submissive women 
for whom all the menial jobs of the household are 
reserved, and whose only deities are their husbands ? 
Why are they not delineated as they really are ? We are, 
they say, neither aetherial damsels, nor dolls nor bundles 

* From an account of the proceedings of the Gujarat Literary 
Conference held at Ahmedabad in November, 1936. 


of passions and nerves. We are as much human beings 
as men are, and we are filled with the same urge for 
freedom. I claim to know them and their minds sufficiently 
well. There was a time in South Africa when I was 
surrounded by numerous women, all their men-folk having 
gone to jails. There were some sixty inmates and I had 
become the brother and father of all the_girls and 
women. Let me tell you that they grew in strength and 
spirit under me, so much so that they ultimately marched 
to jails themselves. 

"I am told that our literature is full of even an 
exaggerated apotheosis of women. Let me say that it is 
an altogether wrong apotheosis. Let me place one simple 
test before you. In what light do you think of them 
when you proceed to write about them? I suggest that 
before you put your pens to paper, think of woman as 
your own mother, and I assure you the chastest literature 
will flow from your pens even like the beautiful rain 
from heaven which waters the thirsty earth below. 
Remember that a woman was your mother before a 
woman became your wife. Far from quenching their 
spiritual thirst some writers stimulate their passions, so 
much so that poor ignorant women waste their time 
wondering how they might answer to the description 
our fiction gives of them. Are detailed descriptions of 
their physical form an essential part of literature, I 
wonder ? Do you find anything of the kind in the Upani- 
shads, the Quran or the Bible ? And yet do you know 
that the English language would be empty without the 
Bible ? Three parts Bible and one part Shakespeare is 
the description of it. Arabic would be forgotten without 
the Quran. And think of Hindi without Tulsidas ! Do you 
find in it anything like what you find in present-day 
literature about women? 11 

Hanjan, 21-11-1936. 

Appendix I 


(By William Loftus Hare) 


Microscopic observation of unicellular life has revealed the 
fact that in the lowest forms reproduction takes place by fission. 
Growth follows on nourishment until the maximum size for 
the species is reached, and then the organism divides its nucleus 
into two, and soon afterwards its body. Given the normal 
conditions water and nourishment this appears to exhaust 
its functions but in the case of denial of these conditions 
there is sometimes observed a reconjunction of two cells, from 
which rejuvenation but not reproduction may result. 

In multicellular life there is nourishment and growth as in 
the life below it, but a new phenomenon is observed. The group 
of cells constituting the body are mostly differentiated to 
separate functions some for obtaining nourishment, sbme for 
its distributions, some for locomotion and some for protection, 
ns for instance, the skin The primitive function of fission is 
abandoned by those to whom new duties are assigned, but is 
preserved by those cells which occupy a more interior position 
in the oiganism. These are guarded and served by the others 
which have undergone varied differentiation, while they them- 
selves remain as they were. They divide as before, but within 
the multicellular body, and at length some are extruded from 
it. They have, however, gained a new power, instead of dividing 
in two as their ancestors did, they undergo segmentation or 
multiplication of nuclei without . separation. This process 
continues until the organism has reached the normal size and 
structure of its multicellular species. But in the body we may 
observe a new feature, the original deposit of germ-cells are 
not only or chiefly extruded for external reproduction, they 
themselves supply a continuous stream of fresh units from 

* Reprinted from The Open Court (Chikago), March, 1926. 


their group for interior differentiation, wheresoever they are 
needed. These undifferentiated germ-cells are thus performing 
two functions simultaneously, namely : internal reproduction for 
the building up of the body and external reproduction for the 
continuation of the species. Here we may clearly distinguish 
two processes, which we shall call regeneration and generation. 
One point more is important here : the regenerative process 
internal reproduction is fundamental for the individual, and 
therefore necessary and primary the generative process is due 
to a superfluity of cells, and is therefore secondary. Probably 
both are closely dependent on nourishment for if this be low, 
there will be a deficiency of internal reproduction and no 
necessity for, or possibility of, external reproduction. The law 
of life; then, at this level is to feed the qerm-cells, firstly for 
regeneration, secondly for generation. In case of deficiency, 
regeneration must take the first place and generation be 
suspended. Thus we may learn the origin of the suspension of 
reproduction and follow it to its later phases of human continence 
and asceticism generally. Inner reproduction can never be 
suspended except at the cost of death, the normal origin of 
which is thus also discerned. 


Before passing to the animal and human species, in which 
sexual differentiation has reached its highest phase and become 
the normi we must glance at the intermediate form of reproduc- 
tion, namely, that which preceded the bi -sexual and followed 
the non-sexual forms. It has received the mythological name 
1 hermaphrodite \ because it possessed both male and female 
functions. There still remain a few organisms which exhibit 
this condition, in which the internal multiplication of germ-cells 
goes on as above described, but instead of their entire extrusion 
for external growth, they are only temporarily extruded and 
passed by intrusion to another part of the body, where they 
are nurtured until able to begin a life of their own. 

The law of growth seems to be that individuals, whether 
unicellular, multicellular or hermaphrodite, have the potentiality 
of developing to the stage reached by the parent creature at 
the time of their extrusion. Thus it is the individual that 


progresses, each time it gives birth to offspring it is or may 
be in itself in a higher state of organization than it was before; 
consequently its offspring will be able to reach the normal 
point of development attained by its parent. The length of the 
reproduction period for each species and each individual will 
differ, but ideally it extends from maturity to approaching 
decline. Premature or decadent reproduction will secure an 
inferior offspring according to its dominant conditions. Here, 
then, we perceive a law for sexual ethic derived from physical 
conditions . the period when generation is most favourable to 
the reproduction of the species and to regeneration is full 
maturity only. 

I pass by the history of the differentiation in sex which 
follows the hermaphrodite, because it is a fact which may be 
taken for granted. It is necessary to observe, however, a new 
condition that has made its appearance with the bi-sexual forms. 
Not only have the ' two halves ' of the hermaphrodite become 
physically separate, but each continues to produce germ-cells 
independently of the othor. The male continues the ancient, 
fundamental process of internal reproduction by the multiplica- 
tion of germ-cells ( which for external reproduction by extrusion 
and intrusion are known as spermatozoa) . the female does 
likewise, reserving rather than extruding the ova for impregna- 
tion by the male germ -cells. In both cases regeneration is 
primary and absolutely necessary for the individual. Every 
moment of growth from conception onwards exhibits the increas- 
ing process of regeneration. At maturity in the human species 
generation may take place, but not necessarily for the good of 
the individual, only for the race. Here, as in the lower forms, 
if regeneration ceases or is imperfectly performed, disease or 
death will supervene. Here, too, there is rivalry of interest 
between the individual and the future race. If there be not 
superfluity, the use of the germ-cells for generative reproduction 
will deprive the process of regeneration (internal reproduction) of 
some of its material. As a matter of fact among civilized human 
beings sexual intercourse is practised vastly more than is 
necessary for the production of the next generation and is carried 
on at the expense of internal reproduction, bringing disease, death 
and more in its train. 


Another and perhaps closer glance may be taken of the 
human body, using that of the male as an example, though 
mutatis mutandis, the female exhibits similar process. 

The central reservoir of germ-cells is the" most ancient and 
fundamental location of biological life. From the first the embryo, 
daily and hourly, grows by the multiplication of cells nourished 
by the mother's secretions; here again feed the germ-cells is the 
law of life. As they multiply and differentiate, they assume new 
forms and functions transitory or permanent as the case may be. 
The movement of physical birth makes little difference to the 
process: now through the lips instead of through the nexus the 
infant takes nourishment to feed germ-cells, these in their turn 
rapidly multiply and pass all over the body to places where 
they are needed, as they always are, to make goad disused 
tissues. The circulatory system absorbs these cells from their 
primal seat and disperses them to every part of the body In 
great groups they take on special duties and form and repair 
the different organs of the body. They undergo death a thousand 
times so that life may be preserved in the society of cells to 
which they belong, all these 'corpses' going to the periphery, 
and especially to the bones, teeth, skin and hair, hardening in 
such a way as to give strength and protection to the body Their 
death is the price of the higher life of the body and all that is 
dependent upon it. If they did not take nourishment, reproduce, 
disperse, differentiate and eventually die, tho body could 
not live. 

From the germ or sexual cells as already said, come two 
kinds of life: (l) internal, or regenerative, (2) external, or 
generative. Regeneration then, as we have called it, is the basis 
of the life of the body, and i draws its life from the same source 
as does generation Hence it may be perceived how, in given 
circumstances, the two processes may be formally opposed 
to one another and more than formally they may be actually 
at enmity. 


The process of regeneration is not and cannot be mechanistic 
in character, but like the primitive fission, is vitalisfcic. That is 
to say, it exhibits intelligence and will. To suppose that life 


separates, differentiates and segregates by a process that is purely 
mechanistic is inconceivable. True, these fundamental processes 
are so far removed from our present consciousness as to seem 
to be uncontrolled by the human or animal will. But a moment's 
reflection will show that just as the will of the fully developed 
human being directs his external movements and actions in 
accordance with the guidance of the intellect this, indeed, being 
its function so the earlier processes of the gradual organization 
of the body must, within the limits provided by environment, 
be allowed to be directed by a kind of will guided by a kind of 
intelligence. This is now known to psychologists as 'the uncon- 
scious '. It is a part of our self, disconnected from our normal 
daily thinking, but intensely awake and alert in regard to its 
own functions so much so that it never for a moment subsides 
into sleep as the consciousness does. 

The unconscious, then, is the vital force which superintends 
the complex processes of regeneration. Its first task is the seg- 
mentation of the impregnated ovum, and thereafter, until death, 
it continues to preserve its appropriate organism by absorbing 
and despatching the fundamental germ-cells to their respective 
stations. Though I here may seem to contradict many notable 
psychologists, I would say that the unconscious is only concerned 
with the individual and not with the species . therefore, first 
with regeneration. Only in one sense can the unconscious be 
said to concern itself with the future- generation, to whatsoever 
state of organization its energy has brought the individual, that 
the unconscious seeks to conserve. But it cannot do the impos- 
sible, it cannot, even with the help of the conscious will, 
prolong life indefinitely. Therefore it reproduces itself by the 
impulse of sexual intercourse, in which it may be said the 
unconscious and the conscious wills unite The gratification, 
normally, of sexual intercourse may be taken as a sign of there 
being some purpose to be served beyond that of the individual 
who eventually pays a price more heavy than he knows. This 
truth js expressed intuitively in the words of the Hebrew writer 
who puts a solemn warning into the divine lips . " I will greatly 
multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow thou shalfc 
bring forth children." (Gen. iii. 16) 



It is undesirable to load this article with extracts from the 
writings of scientific specialists, but as the matter here dealt with 
is so important, and popular ignorance so widespread, I am compelled 
to make some authoritative quotations. Kay Lankester says f 

" It results from the constitution of the protozoon body 
as a single cell, and its method of multiplication by fission, 
that death has no place as a natural recurrent phenomenon 
among these organisms." 

Weismann writes " Natural death occurs only among 
multicellular organisms, the single-celled forms escape it. There 
is no end to their development which can be likened to death, 
nor is the rise of new individuals associated with the death of 
the old. In the division the two portions are equal * neither is 
the older nor the younger. Thus there arises an unending series 
of individuals, each as old as the species itself, each with the 
power of living on indefinitely, ever dividing, but never dying." 

Patrick Geddes writes ( in The Evolution of Sex, from which 
the above extracts are taken ) : " Death, we may thus say, is 
the price paid for a body, the penalty its attainment and pos- 
session sooner or later incurs. Now by a body is meant a com- 
plex colony of cells in which there is more or less division 
of labour." (p. 20) 

Again, to quote Weismann's striking words " The body or 
Soma thus appears to a certain extent as a subsidiary appendage 
of the true bearers of life the reproductive cells." 

And Kay Lankester has the same idea " Among multi- 
cellular animals certain cells are separated from the rest of the 
constituent units of the body. . . the bodies of the higher 
animals, which die, may from this point of view be regarded 
as something temporary and non-essential, destined merely to 
carry for a time, to nurse and to nourish the more important 
and deathless fission-products." 

But the most striking, and probably most surprising fact 
among the data before us is the close connection, in higher 
organisms, between reproduction and death, a subject upon which 
many scientists write with clarity and certainty. The nemesis 
of reproduction is death. This is patent in many species, where 


the organism, sometimes the male and sometimes the female, 
not infrequently dies in continuing the life of the species. Survival 
of the individual after reproduction is a triumph of life that is 
not .always attained in some cases never. In his essay on 
death, Goette has well shown how closely and necessarily bound 
together are the facts of reproduction and death, which may 
both be described as katabolic crises. Patrick Geddes writes ^on 
this subject ( p. 255 op. cit ) ' "The association of death and 
reproduction is indeed patent enough, but the connection is 
in popular language usually misstated. Organisms, one hears, 
have to die, they must tlierefore reproduce, else the species 
would come to an end. But such emphasis on posterior utilities 
is almost always only an afterthought of our invention. The true 
statement, as far as history furnishes an answer, is not that 
they reproduce because they have to die, but that they die 
because they have to reproduce." 

And Goette says briefly "It is not death that makes repro- 
duction necessary, but reproduction has death as its inevitable 

After giving a large number of instances Geddes concludes 
with these remarkable words "In the higher animals the fatality 
of the reproductive sacrifice has been greatly lessened, yet death 
may tragically persist, even -in human life, as the direct nemesis of 
love The temporarily exhausting effect of even moderate sexual 
indulgence is well-known, as well as the increased liability to all 
forms of disease while the physical energies are thus lowered." 

This discussion may be summed up briefly and, I hope, 
conclusively by saying that in human life the sexual act is 
essentially katabolic (or a movement towards death) in the male 
anl m parturition of the offspring it is katabolic for the female. 

A whole chapter could be written on the effect of undue 
indulgence on the health of the body. Virility, old age, vitality 
and immunity from disease are the normal lot of nearly or 
quite continent persons. A proof of this, if a rather unpleasant 
one, is derived from the fact that a very large number of diseases 
in man have been and are cured by the artificial injection of 
semen into debilitated persons. 

There may well be a resistance in the mind of the reader 
to accepting the conclusions offered in the present section of this 


essay. People will hastily point to the many old and apparently 
healthy persons who have been parents of large families; they 
will quote statistics which show that the married live longer 
than the celibate, and so forth. Neither of these arguments have 
force in face of the fact that death, scientifically conceived, is 
not an event which occurs at the end of life but a process 
which begins as shown by the authorities I have quoted 
with life itself, and continues, moment by moment, to run along- 
side with life. Anabolic repair and katabolic waste are the parallel 
forces of life and death. The first leads in the race during youth 
and early manhood, in middle life they run neck and neck, but 
in decline the death process gains the lead, and with the last 
breath, conquers. Everything which leads to this conquest, which 
hastens it by a day, a year or a decade, is part of the death 
process. And such, indeed, is sexual intercourse especially when 
practised to excess. 

It is sufficient to say here to those who doubt the autho- 
rity of my words above that they may do well to consult a 
most interesting and informative work entitled The Problem of 
Age, Growth and Death, by Charles S. Minot [1908, John Murray] , 
in which the author expounds the physiology of decay and death. 
Not being a medical book, but a group of popular lectures, spe- 
cific diseases and sexuality are but lightly discussed. The one 
fact upon which I relv is that natural death is a process, not 
an isolated event. But the book that I value above all others 
on the subject of sexuality is Iteyenerat2on, the Gate af Heaven 
by Dr. Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie [Boston, the Barta Press] , 
whose title indicates a predominantly spiritual aim, although 
the physical and ethical aspects are fully discussed, and supported 
by hosts of scientific and patristic authorities. Strangely enough, 
however, the author does not emphasize the relation of sex to 
death, which is the subject of this section of my essay. 


The extent of the static opposition between generation and 
regeneration may be realized when we consider the higher 
functions of the body, and particularly the physical organ of the 
mind. The nervous system cerebro- spinal and sympathetic 
are, like all other organs, built up of cells that have once been 


germ-cells, drawn from the deepest seat of life : in continuous 
streams they are distributed and differentiated to the ganglia 
of the systems, and of course, in immense quantities to the 
brain. Withdrawal of germ-cells from their upward, regenerative 
course for generative or merely indulgent purposes, deprives the 
organs of their full replenishing stock of life, to their cost, slowly 
and ultimately. It is these physical facts which constitute the basis 
of a personal sexual ethic, counselling moderation if not restraint, at 
any rato explaining the origin of restraint, as said above. 

T do not hesitate to add to this section one illustration 
out of several which might be adduced, to show how closely m 
some philosophical systems continence is believed to minister 
to mental and spiritual vigour. I allude to the Indian system 
of Yoqa The reader may refer to any of the standard translations 
oi Pataniali's Yoya Sutras ( that by James H. Woods in tho 
Harvard Oriental Series is the best known to me ) in order to 
test the brief statement J now make 

[t IH probably known to those who are familiar with 
Indian religious and social life that asceticism was and is still 
practised by the Hindus Originally called tapas, it had two 
aims, one to maintain and increase the poweis of the body 
and the other to transcend the normal powers of the mind. 
Traditionally one is known as liathqyoqa and is carried to 
extraordinary degrees of attainment, making bodily perfection 
an end m itself. The other, known as rajayoqa, is directed 
rather towards intellectual and mystical development. Yet the 
two systems have in common an essential physical ethic, to 
which I now call attention This is set forth m the classical 
suttas of Pcitanjali and in many later works derived from this 
master psychologist of ancient India. 

Among the ' hindrances ' to the desired attainment, 'passion* 
is said to be the third (II. 7). Passion is that greed or thirst 
or desire for either pleasure or the means of attaining it, says 
the philosopher. Pleasure is to be rejected by the yogin because 
it is intermingled with pain (II. 15). That disposes of the 
psychological attraction of sexuality, and m later sutras we 
are led to physical considerations. 

There are eight aids to yoga's end , the first and second 
are called " Abstentions and Observances " and constitute the 


preliminary ethic which the yoqin must observe. It is astonishing 
that the many babblers on the yoga systems either do not 
know or refrain from saying that the fourth abstention is 
" Abstinence from incontinence " (11.30), and that " Continence 
is the control of the hidden organ of generation." 

But the consequences of the abstention from incontinence 
are remarkably rich according to this philosopher, who says 
(II 38) "As soon as he is grounded in abstinence he acquires 
energy that is power. By the acquisition of which he 
accumulates qualities such as minuteness . . . and when 
perfected he is endowed with the eight perfections, of which 
the first is called ' Reasoning ' He is able to transfer his 
thinking to his hearers." 

Happy man 1 Bare attainment ! A modern Indian scholar, 
M N. Dvivedi, has a very significant comment on this sutia, 
with winch I will conclude. He says "It is a well-known 
physiological law that the semen has great connection with the 
intellect, and w r e might add the spirituality, of man The 
abstaining from waste of this important element ot being gives 
power, the real occult power such as is desired. No yoya is 
ever leportod successful without the observance of this rule as 
an essential preliminary " 

It only remains to be said that in the many commentanes 
on yoga the purpose and process are veiled m quasi-scientific 
mythology. The ' power ' is said to creep silently like a serpent 
from the lowest chakram to the highest thnt is, from the tests 
to the brain. 


Ethic in general is derived from facts given in the experience 
of life whether of individuals or societies or the race. Historically, 
it has often been formulated by some outstanding peisonahty, 
and sometimes invested with a divine or semi-divine authority. 
Moses, the Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Aristotle, Christ, and 
great moralists and philosophers who in all countries followed 
them, all proposed, each in their separate day and country, some 
criterion by which human conduct might be tried. A general 
ethical system is dependent, then, upon metaphysics, 'psychology, 
physiology and sociology, which together supply the facts, or 


supposed facts, which speak for themselves. A personal sexual 
ethic, therefore, for any age or civilization will be drawn from 
the data which most impress men in their own experience. This 
personal sexual ethic, like the social sexual ethic, varies from age 
to age, but it has some elements of stability in it, which are 
more or less permanent. 

In attempting to formulate a personal sexual ethic for 
these times, one would draw from all known facts and proba- 
bilities, especially when these are confirmed by the experience 
of reliable observers I am not assuming too much when I say 
that the facts adduced m my sections I to V suggest immedi- 
ately to the mind of a candid and intelligent reader a number 
of logical and inevitable conclusions From the point of view of 
bodily, mental and spintul welfare, sexual continence would 
appear to be the irrefutable law deduced from the facts But 
immediately anothei law springs up to challenge it "the law 
m our members" c is the Christian apostle calls it. We are m 
the presence oi an antinomy law contradicting law The older 
law is that of Nature, whence we have sexual impulse tho 
newer law is that oi intuition, of science, of exponenco oi 
conviction, of ideal. Obedience to the older law tends to decay and 
premature death (speaking relatively) Uio path of the newer law 
is beset with difficulties so great that one hardly listens seriously 
to its voice. People cannot get, themselves lo believe the statement 
ol the case. They begin at once to say Dub, but, but ? It is 
worthy of remark here that the formulation of the strictest 
ethic by ijoyin, bhikkhu and monk does not, as is so aften 
believed, vest on mythologic fables or superstitions, but on an 
intuition of the physiological facts described in this essay 

T know of no modern writer who has stated the case for 
the sexual ethic for the Christian more forcibly or clearly than 
Leo Tolstoy, the now discredited idealist of what once was Eussia. 
I print it here as an illustration of the old philosopher's views . 

102. The instinct of the continuation of the race the 
sexual instinct is innate in man. In the animal condition he 
* The reader should remember that Tolstoy's definition of sin 
has no theological connotation; sin is defined by him as that which 
constitutes an obstacle to the manifestation of love, which in its turn 
is denned as universal goodwill. 


fulfils his destiny by satisfying this instinct, and in so fulfilling 
it finds welfare. 

103. But with the awakening of consciousness, it appears 
to man that the gratification of this instinct may increase the 
welfare of his separate being, and he enters into sexual intercourse, 
not with the object of continuing the race, but to increase his 
personal welfare. This constitutes the sexual sin. . . . 

107. In the first case, when man desires to keep chaste t 
and to consecrate all his powers to the service of God, sexual 
sin will consist in any sexual intercourse whatever, even though 
it has for its object the birth and rearing of children The 
purest marriage state will be such an innate sin for the n>an 
who has chosen the alternative of chastity. 

113. The sexual sin, i.e., mistake, for the man who has 
chosen the service of chastity, consists in this he might have 
chosen the highest vocation and used all his powers in service 
of God, and consequently, for tbe spread of love and towards 
the attainment of the highest welfare, instead of which he 
descends to a lower plane of life and deprives himself of 
his welfare. 

114. The sexual sin or mistake for the man who has chosen 
to continue the race will consist in the fact that, by depriving 
himself of having children or, at all events, of family relationships, 
he deprives himself of the highest welfare of sexual life. 

115. In addition to this as with the gratification of all 
needs those who try to increase the pleasure of sexual inter- 
course diminish the natural pleasure in proportion as they 
addict themselves to lust. 

It will be observed that Tolstoy's doctrine is in ethical 
relativity, the effective absolute is not fixed for man by "God 
or some authoritative teacher, but is chosen by the individual 
himself. All that is necessary is 'that he should conform to 
the law he has accepted. 

Such an ethic offers a series of descending prohibitions. 
To the man who has a conviction in favour of entire continence, 
and who intelligently controls himself for higher physical and 

t The words chaste and chastity are used by the author in their 
Russian signification which includes complete abstinence from sexual 
Intercourse . 


psychic ends, any form of sexual indulgence is disallowed; to 
the man who has entered into the bond of marriage, sexuality 
outside it is forbidden. Further, promiscuous or irregular inter- 
course of the unmarried would* nevertheless exclude such a 
degrading relation as prostitution, while any person engaging in 
natural act should shun unnatural vices. Finally, to any class 
of persons indulging at all, over-indulgence would be regarded as 
an evil, while for the immature and the youthful, indulgence 
should be postponed. Such is the system of sexual ethic. 

I can hardly think that anyone can be found incapable of 
understanding the nature of this general sexual ethic, and there 
must be very few who would on serious reflection deny its 
force. There is a tendency, however, to meet such an ethic by 
sophistry of various kinds. People suppose that because continence 
is difficult and undoubtedly rare, its advocacy is invalid. Logically 
they should say the same of fidelity in marriage which is in 
some cases difficult or restricted indulgence within it, or 
adherence to the natural practice. If they deny one ideal, they 
may deny all and permit us to fail into the lowest vices and 
inordinate lust. Why not ? The only reasonable and logical 
method is to follow the star above us, the star of the ideal 
that leads us out of one declension after another and enables, 
us to conquer by the power of one law, the power of its 
antinomy. Thus by the intelligent and volitional practice of 
this ethic a man may conceivably be raised from the unnatural 
vices of youth to natural indulgence even if promiscuous; from 
this he may be drawn to the discipline of married fidelity, and 
for the sake of himself and his partner, to such restraint as 
they are able to endure. The same ethic may lead him on to 
the higher victories of continence, or indeed catch him before 
he has sunk to the several lower phases of indulgence. 


The New Testament has much teaching in reference to 
love 1 , and adopts two conceptions, which must be separately 
examined. The first is that of eras, the passive love of life, of 
the world, of man and woman, of the manifold sensations an# 
emotions that yield us pleasure. This eros is not a matter of 
our wilful choice; we are attracted here and repelled there; we 


gravitate to life itself, by forces that seem to be greater 
than ourselves, and to 'which we, for the most part, 
respond by appropriate aetion. Our likes and dislikes, our loves 
and hates, our affection and disaffection from one system in 
eros. For what does eras ask ? For welfare : for welfare of that 
separate personality in*whioh the claims are felt most keenly 
namely, for 'myself. And that welfare is pursued with egoistic 
motive through every life, every generation, every nation, growing 
in intensity and remorselessness, until it reaches, as lately, a state 
of world-war. It passes through innumerable phases, adopts, by 
the aid of the intellect, all kinds of mechanical and economic 
devices, and is at the present moment incarnate in the system 
of modern civilization. 

What, then, we may legitimately ask, was the Christian 
teaching about this eros, this love of life ? Was it to be despised, 
neglected, resisted, or stamped out ? Or, was it to be given free 
rein to attain its ends ? All the teaching as to eros may be 
summed up in the simple words : "Your Heavenly Father knoweth 
what thing ye have need of", and " Seek ye first the Kingdom 
of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be 
added unto you ". Eros is not to be destroyed, but transcended; 
a higher aim is proposed by Christ which, if attempted with 
success, will lead to a ' more abundant life 1 in which a purified 
eros has its share. 

It is here we meet with the essential Christian Love called 
in the New Testament agape. We are able to understand at 
once its distinctive quality as compared with eros. Agape, 
unlike eros, is an act of personal will. It is loving-kindness* 
that overrides attraction and repulsion, and so can be extended to 
friend and enemy alike. Christian love emphatically is not, therefore, 
the weak and sentimental emotion it is so often supposed to be, 
but is, in its very nature, an effort of the will that rises above 
all emotion. It is not merely will, but will qualified by goodness^ 
and the Christians, in exercising such love accomplish and 
facilitate for others the aims of their eros; like the Heavenly 
Father, he also "knows whafr things men have need of. By 
means of the faculties of imagination and compassion he is 
prompted to meet their needs, for, as he would that men should 
do for him, so he strives to do for them: for he knows that 


eras in them, as in him, asks for life. The Christian conception 
of life, therefore, does not deny the claims of eras, but 
emphasizes the duty of agape. Christian ethic is thus a new 
life direction, a turning round from the way of the world, from 
the seeking of private welfare, to positive goodwill and universal 

The early Christians were taught, like other people, a 'golden 
rule', but even though this were intelligible enough they were 
taught also something still more lofty and metaphysical : men 
are to imitate God : as He is perfect in loving-kindness, so also 
must His servants be " because God is love", hoti ho theos 
agape estin. (Matt, v, 48; John Ep. I, IV, 8). 


Just as society is the extension and co-ordination of the 
activities of individuals, so a social sexual ethic rises out of 
a personal one. In other words, society requires additions to 
and qualifications of the personal ethic, and the chief instance 
of these is the institution of marriage. A great deal has been 
written upon the history of marriage by learned scientists, and 
the data collected are immense. Nothing but the bare conclusion 
need be cited here in order to enable us to refer to modern 
expedients that are being offered. 

Anciently, and arising out of the facts of the human repro- 
duction, the mother was naturally the more important of the' 
two partners. She was, as she still is, the chief agent of nature's 
process. Within her and around her are the centres of family 
growth. Consequently matriarchy, or the rule of the mother, 
was once widely recognized, and polyandry, the practice v of 
associating several males with the central female, was admitted. 
There are vestiges of this system still in vogue among the primitive 
tribes of Asia. Out of it, and partly as a consequence of tribal 
association, the status of the husband was evolved. One of the 
several men associated with the mother the strongest and most 
attractive defender was raised to a position of preference. Indeed, 
the word 'husband 1 contains the history of the institution down 
to early Scandinavian times. He was husbiwndi, the house-dweller, 
bound, as others were not, to the house. Eventually, the husband 


became the master of the house, and one of this class the chief 
or king of the tribe, and just as under the matriarchy the 
practice of polyandry appeared, so under male rule the practice 
of polygamy developed. 

Psychologically, therefore, if not socially, man is naturally 
polygamous and woman naturally polyandrous/ As a male, the man 
radiates his desire in many directions always lighting for the 
time being on the most attractive of the opposite sex. And 
similarly with the female, But human society, both primitive 
and modern, could not exist unless some check were placed upon 
the promiscuous, natural, psychological impulses, which are, in 
all species and kingdoms below the human, exuberant and 
prolific. The check invented by society inevitably was marriage, 
and eventually monogamous marriage v Its only alternative is 
promiscuity and the utter disruption, at least, of the present 
form of society. We can, of course, see the contest going on before 
our eyes. Prostitution, irregular and non-legal unions, adulteries 
and divorces are the day-to-day evidence that monogamous 
marriage has not established itself in power over the older and 
more primitive relationships. Will it ever do so ? 

Meanwhile, notice must be given to an expedient that has 
long been secretly present with us, but has lately shown its 
face without shame. It is called 'Birth Control', and consists in 
the use of chemical and mechanical means for preventing con- 
ception. Conception, of course, apart from its burden upon the 
woman, places a restraint for a considerable time upon the 
man, especially upon the man of good feeling. Birth control or 
contraception removes all prudential motives for self-restraint 
and makes it possible for sexual indulgence in marriage to be 
limited only by the diminution of desire or the advance of age. 
Apart from this, however, it inevitably has an influence outside 
the marriage relation. It opens the door for irregular, promiscuous 
and unfruitful unions, which from the point of view of modern 
industry, sociology and politics, are full of dangers. I cannot go 
into these here. It is sufficient to say that by contraception, 
inordinate sexual indulgence both in and out of marriage is faci- 
litated, and, if I am right in my foregqing physiological arguments, 
evil must come to both individuals and the race. 



Like the seed cast by the sower, this essay will fall into 
the hands of some who will despise it, of those who from 
incapacity or sheer idleness will not even understand it. In 
some of those who for the first time hear of its ideas it will 
rouse opposition and even anger , but to a few it will appeal as 
truthful and useful. Yet even they will find doubts and questions 
rising in their minds. The simplest of them will say to me : 
*' According to your arguments sexual intercourse ought not to take 
place, the world would then become unpeopled which is absurd ! 
Therefore you must be wrong." My reply is that I have no such 
dangerous nostrum to offer. 'Birth Control' is the most potent 
form of birth prevention and will depopulate the world faster 
than the attempted practice of continence My purpose is a 
simple one by offering certain philosophic and scientific truths 
as a challenge to ignorance and indulgence, I desire to help to 
purify the sexual life of our time. 

Appendix II 


The subject of sex is a remarkable one, since, though its 
phenomena concern us so much, both directly and indirectly, and, 
sooner or later, it occupies the thoughts of all, yet all mankind, 
as it were, agree to be silent about it, at least the sexes 
-commonly one to another. One of the most interesting of all 
human facts is veiled more completely than any mystery. It is 
treated with such secrecy and awe as surely do not go to any 
religion. I believe that it is unusual even for the most intimate 
friends to communicate the pleasures and anxieties connected 
with this fact, much as the external affair of love, its comings 
and goings are bruited. The Shakers do not exaggerate it so 
much by their manner of speaking of it as all mankind by 
their manner of keeping silence about it. Not that men should 
speak on this or any subject without having anything worthy 
to say; but it is plain that the education of man has hardly 
commenced there is so little genuine intercommunication. 
* From Essays by Henry David Thoreau. 


In a pure society, the subject of marriage would not be 
so often avoided from shame and not from reverence, winked 
out of sight, and hinted at only, but treated naturally and 
simply perhaps simply avoided, like the kindred mysteries. If 
it cannot be spoken of for shame, how can it be acted of ? But 
doubtless, there is far more purity, as well as more impurity, 
than is apparent. 

Men commonly couple with their idea of marriage a slight 
degree at least of sensuality, but every lover the world over 
believes in its inconceivable purity. 

If it is the result of a pure love, there can be nothing 
sensual in marriage. Chastity is something positive, not negative. 
It is the virtue of the married especially. All lusts or base 
pleasures must give place to loftier delights. They who meet as 
superior beings cannot perform the doeds of inferior ones. The 
deeds of love are less questionable than any action of an 
individual can be, for, it being founded on the rarest mutual 
respect, the parties incessantly stimulate each other to a loftier 
and purer life, and the act in which they are associated must 
be pure and noble indeed, for innocence and purity can have 
no equal. In this relation we deal with one whom we respect 
more religiously even than we respect our better selves, and 
we shall necessarily conduct as in the presence of God What 
presence can be more awful to the lover than the presence of 
his beloved ? 

If you seek the warmth evon of affection from a similar 
motive to that from which cats and dogs and slothful persons 
hug the fire, because your temperature is low through sloth, 
you are on the downward road, and it is but to plunge yet 
deeper into sloth. Better the cold affection of the sun, reflected 
from fields of ice and snow, or his warmth in some still wintry 
dell. The .warmth of celestial love does not relax but nerves 
and braces its enjoyer. Warm your body by healthful exercise, 
not by cowering over a stove. Warm your spirit by performing 
independently noble deeds, not by ignobly seeking the sympathy 
of your fellows who are no better than yourself. A man's- 
social and spiritual discipline must answer to his * corporeal. 
He must lean on a friend who lias a hard breast, as he would 
lie on a hard bed. He must drink cold water for his only 


beverage. So he must not hear sweetened and coloured words, 
but pure and refreshing truths. He must daily bathe in truth 
cold as spring water, not warmed by the sympathy of friends. 

Can love be in ought allied to dissipation ? Let us love by 
refusing, not accepting, one another. Love and lust are far asunder. 
The one is good, the other bad. When the affectionate sympa- 
thize by their higher natures, there is love; but there is danger 
that they will sympathize by their lower natures, and then 
there is lust. It is not necessary that this be deliberate, hardly 
even conscious; but, in the close contact of affection, there is 
danger that we may stain and pollute one another, for we 
cannot embrace but with an entire embrace. . * 

We must love our friend so much that she shall be associated 
with our purest and holiest thoughts alone. When there is impurity 
we have 'descended to meet', though we know it not. 

The luxury of affection, there's the danger. There must 
be some nerve and heroism in our love, as of a winter morning. 
In the religion of all nations a purity is hinted at, which, I 
fear, men never attain to. We may love and not elevate one 
another. The lave that takes us as it finds us degrades us. 
What watch we must keep over the fairest and purest of our 
affections, lest there be some taint about them ! May we so 
love as never to have occasion to repent of our love ! 

There is to be attributed to sensuality the loss to language 
of how many pregnant symbols ? Flowers which, by their infinite 
hues and fragrance, celebrate the marriage of the plants, are 
intended, for a symbol of the open and unsuspected beauty of 
all true marriage, when man's flowering season arrives. 

Virginity too is a budding flower, and by an impure marriage 
the virgin is deflowered. Whoever loves flowers loves virgins 
and chastity. Love and lust are as far asunder as a flower- 
garden is from a brothel. 

J. Biberg, in the Amoemtates Botamcoe, edited by Linnaeus, 
observes ( I translate from the Latin ) : The organs of genera- 
tion, which, in the animal kingdom, are for the most part con- 
cealed by nature, as if they were to be ashamed of, in the 
vegetable kingdom are exposed to the eyes of all; and when the 
nuptials of plants are celebrated, it is wonderful what delight 
they afford to the beholder, refreshing the senses with the most 


agreeable colour and the sweetest odour; and, at the same time, 
bees and other insects, not to mention the humming-bird, 
extract honey from their nectaries and gather wax from their 
effete pollen." Linnaeus himself calls the calyx the thalamus, 
or bridal chamber : and the corolla the auloeum, or tapestry of 
it, and proceeds to explain thus every part of the flower. 

Who knows but evil spirits might corrupt the flowers them- 
selves, rob them of their fragrance and their fair hues, and turn 
their m&rriage into a secret shame and defilement ? Already 
they are of various qualities, and there is one whose nuptials 
fill the lowlands in June with the odour of carrion. 

The intercourse of the sexes, I have dreamed, is incredibly 
bea'atiful, too fair to be remembered. I have had thoughts about 
it, bu^ they are among the most fleeting and irrecoverable in 
my experience. It is strange that man will talk of miracles, 
revelation, inspiration, and the like, as things past, while love 

A true marriage will differ in no wise from illumination. 
In all perception of the truth there is a divine ecstasy, an 
inexpressible delirium of joy, as when a youth embraces his 
betrothed virgin. The ultimate delights of a true marriage are 
one with this. 

No wonder that out of such a union, not as end, but as 
accompaniment, comas the undying race of man. The womb is 
a most fertile soil. 

Some have asked if the stock of man could not be improved, 
if they could not be bred as cattle. Let love be purified, and 
all the rest will follow. A pure love is thus, indeed, the panacea 
for all the ills of the world. 

The only excuse for reproduction is improvement. Nature 
abhors repetition. Beasts merely propagate their kind; but the 
offspring of noble men and women will be superior to them- 
selves, as their aspirations are. By their fruits ye shall know them.